Brooks Pierce Capital Dispatch: Budget Negotiations Begin, Sports Wagering Bill Advances
Legislators this week began to negotiate on the budget bill and acted on various other bills.
As expected, the House on Wednesday voted not to concur in the Senate version of the budget bill (H 259). Members from both chambers will now begin to negotiate a budget conference committee report for consideration in each house. Legislative leaders have announced a goal of completing this work by mid-June.
The Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee on Wednesday approved a bill (H 347) that would authorize, regulate and tax sports wagering in North Carolina. It would also legalize pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing. It next goes to the Senate Finance Committee. The House earlier passed the bill by 64-45.
Under the bill, the North Carolina Lottery Commission would be responsible for issuing licenses to involved parties and regulating sports wagering. Wagering could either be interactive (for example, on electronic devices such as “smart” phones) or at certain sports facilities or a place of “public accommodation” associated with such facilities. Wagers would be allowed on professional sports, college sports, electronic sports, amateur sports or other events approved by the Lottery Commission.
A privilege tax of 18% would be levied on each interactive sports wagering operator. Proceeds from this tax would go for a variety of purposes including grants to each county to benefit youth sports and to certain UNC school athletic departments. Of the remaining funds, 30% would go to a new Major Events, Games and Attractions Fund to attract events to North Carolina and 50% would go to the state’s General Fund, which funds most state entities other than transportation.
Blue Cross Blue Shield Bill
The Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee this week passed a bill (H 346) that would allow the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina health insurance company to restructure its corporate model. Under the bill, Blue Cross could create a nonprofit holding company that would become what state law calls its “ultimate controlling person.” The bill next goes to the Senate Rules Committee.
Proponents of the bill argue that the holding company will allow Blue Cross to compete more effectively. State Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey opposes the bill due to concerns about transparency and accountability for the new holding company, and it possibly leading to higher insurance rates.
Video Gaming Terminals
The House Commerce Committee on Tuesday discussed a bill (H 512) that would legalize video gaming terminals (VGTs) in North Carolina. It is uncertain whether the bill will resurface later in this session.
Representative Harry Warren (R-Rowan), the bill’s chief sponsor, outlined its details during the meeting. He supports the bill as a way to regulate machines that are currently being operated illegally in North Carolina, which he said could number over 60,000. Among other things, the bill would authorize and regulate video gaming terminals and direct the North Carolina State Lottery Commission to issue licenses and regulate the play of the terminals.
The bill would use money from the terminals to create the Community College Scholarship Loan Program to provide scholarship forgivable loans to North Carolina residents to attend community college. Funds would also go to both UNC and private historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). General Assembly staff estimate that the terminals could produce $350 million annually for these purposes by mid-2028.
Information about bills and work of the General Assembly can be found at its website: www.ncleg.gov.
For more information, contact a member of the Brooks Pierce Government Affairs Team.