Sports betting, medical marijuana back on legislative radar 

A person gambles as betting odds for NFL football's Super Bowl are displayed on monitors at the Circa resort and casino sports book Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

RALEIGH — Legislation that would establish sports betting and open the door to legalized medical marijuana is back on the General Assembly’s plate this week. 

An N.C. Senate committee made several changes to the March bill approved by the N.C. House of Representatives, including language to make it easier for adults to bet in person and adding horse racing to the list of approved betting options. 

The measure also increases the tax rate on the revenues that the legalized sportsbooks would generate. 

The chief sponsor of the House measure declined to comment after the committee vote on the changes. The Senate version must still go through two committees and floor votes. 

“I’ll wait to see what their final product is,” GOP Rep. Jason Saine of Lincoln County said in a text message to the Associated Press. 

“Betting on sports in our state is occurring. But in order for us to regulate it, in order for us to tax it and provide a public benefit from those taxes, we have to authorize it first,” Sen. Tim Moffitt, a Henderson County Republican, told colleagues. Legal sports gambling is only available right now at three casinos operated by two American Indian tribes. 

Largely similar to the House version approved in March, the Senate’s proposal would direct the North Carolina Lottery Commission to issue up to 12 interactive sports wagering licenses to entities that would be subject to robust background checks and $1 million application fees. 

While the House would levy a 14% privilege tax on operators’ gross revenue, minus winnings and other expenses, the Senate proposed an 18% tax that omits certain deductions for operators. 

A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision permitted states to legalize sports betting. In a 6-3 decision, Justice Samuel Alito said that, “Congress may not simply ‘commandeer the legislative process of the States by directly compelling them to enact and enforce a federal regulatory program.’” The result permitted each state to consider their own plans for sports betting. 

Since that decision, nearly 30 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some form of sports betting, according to the American Gaming Association. 

A House Committee is also taking up SB 3, the NC Compassionate Care Act, which would open the state to medical marijuana sales. 

The bill is a priority for Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick), the powerful Senate Rules Committee chair and cancer survivor. 

The measure provides funds for the initial development and implementation of the medical cannabis supply system, but mandates that none of the state’s General Fund will be used to operate the system. 

The bill aims to use license fees and a monthly fee equal to 10% of the gross revenue derived from the sale of cannabis and cannabis-infused products sold at the medical cannabis centers. 

Other aspects of the bill include establishing a Compassionate Use Advisory Board that would have the power to add new debilitating medical conditions to approved uses, ID cards demonstrating that individuals qualify as having a debilitating medical condition for which a physician has issued a written certification and create a series of violations and penalties for violating legal use of products. A sales tax exemption is also included in the bill’s language. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Matt Mercer is the editor in chief of North State Journal and can be reached at [email protected].