North Carolina Passes Pointless Sports Betting Study Law

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper is becoming the Tom Brady of pointless sports betting laws. About a month ago, he signed a bill to legalize sports betting at two completely remote tribal casinos–but nowhere else. It’s unclear if he needed to authorize them in the first place or if the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians could have just started to offer sports betting as part of their existing Class 3 gaming compact with the state. More likely, it was a proactive move by the state to limit what the EBCI could do with sports betting at their properties.

Now Governor Cooper has signed another law…to permit a *study* of sports betting! Here’s the take from the Asheboro Courier-Tribune:

“Thursday’s new law authorizes the N.C. Lottery Commission to contract with an independent third-party to study what impact statewide sports betting would have on the state. It specifically mentions examining “the positive and negative impacts of authorizing sports betting in this state, whether any additional resources may be needed for assistance to those with gambling addictions” as well as the “potential revenues and expenditures.”

“It raises the idea of creating a gaming commission or authority to oversee sports betting activities.”

The one good component of the law is that it at least raises the idea of creating a gaming commission in North Carolina, or at least some authority to oversee sports betting. Although it wasn’t mentioned in the above quote, for some reason steeplechase horse races are also under study though I haven’t been able to determine whether that would include simulcast wagering on thoroughbreds and harness racing. Presumably that would require the establishment of a racing commission as well or at least a specific authority within a gaming commission. Or at least that’s the way they should set it up.

The language implicating sports betting as an issue for ‘those with gambling additions’ is also silly. Sports betting is one of the *least* problematic forms of gambling in that area for a number of fairly obvious reasons–not the least of which being that there are a finite number of sporting events available for betting. This is not the case with casino games, video poker/slots and with the state’s beloved cash cow, the lottery. The demographics of sports betting also trend toward players who can a) afford it and b) understand the risk of losing money. The lottery, meanwhile, trends toward lower income, lower educated players. States usually do a bit of hand wringing about the lottery’s impact before implementing it but it’s not like they’re serious. It’s all about the revenue.

Deputizing the state lottery commission to conduct the study is also concerning. In other states that have done this there has been a tendency (surprise, surprise) for the lottery to determine that they’re best qualified to administer–if not completely run–sports betting. The downside risk here is that North Carolina will end up with a pitiful lottery run game like Oregon or the District of Columbia. The way it works best is a) set up a gambling commission b) allow them to license third party companies specializing in sports betting for in-person and online wagering c) profit. There’s your ‘study’ North Carolina, from an actual ‘independent third party expert’ on sports betting.

I don’t really mean to pile on Governor Cooper who is a significant upgrade from North Carolina’s previous governor– bathroom obsessed fundamentalist windbag Pat McCrory. The whole ‘study’ of sports betting is completely pointless but gives those without a philosophical backbone a bit of coverage to vote for it. They can just say that they’re opposed to it personally but ‘we studied it and it will bring much needed revenues to the state’. A better idea would be to quit pandering to the religious right and buy in to the whole ‘separation of church and state’ thing.

There’s at least a timeline for the study–the Asheboro Courier-Tribune reported that the lottery commission should report their findings to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on the State Lottery on or before April 15. Even with a few signs of hope in the verbiage of the ‘study’ law that North Carolina can put together a decent sports betting infrastructure I’m highly skeptical that they’ll actually do so.

About the Author: Jim Murphy

For more than 25 years, Jim Murphy has written extensively on gambling theory and practice. Jim Murphy has been quoted in media from the Wall Street Journal to REASON Magazine. Murphy worked as a radio and podcasting host broadcasting to an international audience that depended on his expertise and advice.