North Carolina Lawmakers Advance Tavern Gambling Bill
Lawmakers in North Carolina are pushing forward a bill that will legalize lottery terminals inside venues of the state.
At taverns in North Carolina, it is not uncommon to see a gambling machine in operation. For over a decade, such machines have been offered within a grey market and lawmakers want to see the games legalized to bring more gambling revenue to the state. Legislation pushed forward this week that will see such games approved for taverns throughout North Carolina, with each machine regulated to provide safe gambling for players.
House Bill 954
House Bill 954 was approved this week in the House Commerce Committee. The measure will allow any venue that sells beer or wine, with proper licensing, to offer up to 10 video lottery terminals per venue. Customers will have access to games of chance, machines that are similar to traditional slot machines.
With legislation in place, the unregulated gaming devices that are operating now will be no more. The unregulated machines have been controversial for quite some time, with manufacturers making adjustments to avoid any legal issues.
Representative Harry Warren of Rowan County is the sponsor for HB 954 who stated that when laws are passed, the manufacturers change up the game and dance around the law. With this measure, the VLTs will be regulated by the state and connected to a centralized monitoring system. The system will serve as the overseer of the industry and revenues would go through the state Lottery.
Removing Illegal Games
For Rep. Warren, he believes that the legislation will allow taverns and restaurants to offer the games legally. This will lead the removal of the games that are not licensed or are considered illegal. According to a recent 2021 North Carolina Gaming Study by Spectrum Gaming, there are around 90,000 unlicensed gaming devices in the state.
Opponents of the games feel that the legislation will just lead to more games in the state. The North Carolina Sheriff’s Association said that the bill does not eliminate games that are already in place and it adds a large number of additional games that will ‘prey on our citizens’.
The opponents say that the players that are taking part in the games are not high rollers that can afford to go to Las Vegas, but people who bet with their rent or grocery money.
The bill now sits with the North Carolina House Finance Committee and will hopefully be considered before the session ends in mid-September. House lawmakers feel that the bill has enough support that it will pass but it is still unclear if the measure will be able to move through the Senate at a good pace.
The legislation states that gross gaming revenues will be taxed at a high rate of 40%. A 32% portion must go to a new account titled North Carolina Video Lottery Fund. An 8% amount will go towards administrative expenses that are incurred from the new industry.
The leftover 60% will go to the businesses, distributors, and manufacturers of the games. Any one offering such services will need to complete a background check within the application and pass it to be considered for approval. The hope is that the background check will eliminate any bad actors from taking part in the industry.
It will be interesting to see if the legislation is able to move forward. Does it have enough support to regulate the games that are already taking place in the state? Will opponents push harder to see lawmakers vote no on the subject? Only time will tell, but approving the legislation would certainly provide more revenues for the state.