CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina is considering a bill that would legalize sports betting and use the millions in estimated profits to fund education and other programs hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The sponsors of Senate Bill 688 said it's less about advocating for gambling, and more about finding a way to bring in more money for the state without raising taxes.
“I think that we've got to find creative ways to fund what we need for education," State senator Paul Lowe said.
Lowe is the co-sponsor of a new bill that would legalize online sports betting statewide on college, professional, Olympic games, and even e-sports like video game tournaments.
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And it would be taxed at 8%, which would bring in an estimated $50 million a year for the state.
The majority would go toward education, funding things like school renovations and technology – particularly for title one schools and programs impacted by the pandemic.
“One of the things that have happened with COVID is it's kind of pulled the sheets off of all of the disparities everywhere in North Carolina, all over the country," Senator Lowe said. "And there are lots of disparities. This is just one way of trying to fund possibly fund some of those disparities.”
Governor Roy Cooper supported and signed a 2019 bill legalizing sportsbooks at tribal casinos in the state, which had significant support from bipartisan legislators and sports fans alike.
Shortly after that law passed, the state education lottery commissioned a report to study the potential impact of legalizing gambling on a wider scale.
The results found within five years the state could stand to gain $367 million from sports betting alone.
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Senator Lowe believes it’s time to cash in.
"We've got to fund education," he said. "I don't think there is a perfect way to do it. But this is one way we can do it.”
That gambling report also found if internet casino games and video poker were to be legalized in North Carolina the state could stand to gain $2.8 billion over five years. Although state leaders and anti-gambling advocates say that is less likely to happen.