stock flickr CC by Marit and Toomas Hinnosaar sports gambling

Allowing sports gambling is another flawed economic decision by NC policymakers

Across North Carolina, people deserve public policies that improve everyone’s well-being. North Carolinians — Black, brown, and white — want adequate funding for the institutions and services that support their health and education. But this week, the NC General Assembly is hearing a proposal that will generate new costs for North Carolina and use our money to beef up the bottom lines of profitable companies outside our state. HB 347 would pave the way for commercialized sports betting in North Carolina, propping up a predatory industry without delivering any economic benefits.

Sports gambling is a net negative for North Carolina

Sports gambling generates significant costs through the harm it causes families and communities. Rates of problem gambling are twice as high among sports bettors than among all gamblers, especially among people who bet on sports daily — something online betting would make easier than ever.  Problem gambling in turn is associated with a wide variety of harms, not only to people and their families, but also to our state’s economy in the form of higher bankruptcy rates and greater debt, worse health outcomes, and greater absenteeism from work.

The gambling industry is highly predatory, with business and advertising practices that target teenagers, even as they claim to prevent underage betting. Recently research also finds that people who bet on sports are more likely to be Black or Latino, meaning the harms of this legislation are likely to fall disproportionately on North Carolinians of color.

Subsidizing sports gambling affirms a vision for economic development that privileges corporations over people

The proposed legislation will offer licenses to local outlets of sportsbooks — the companies that set and take bets on games. But the companies themselves are located outside of North Carolina. These businesses don’t create good, well-paid jobs in our communities, and they send most of their profits to wealthy executives outside the state. The bill would also direct 30 percent of revenue generated by sports betting to a slush fund for attracting major sporting events to North Carolina. The use of these funds is poorly defined and will subsidize a dubious vision of economic development focused on occasional events rather than sustained, high-quality employment.

Promised revenue inadequate to the costs, unable to meet the need for public dollars

Sport’s betting industry lobbyists claim that it will generate revenue for our state. But the licensing fees and taxes on gambling proposed in this bill bring nowhere near the funding North Carolina needs to fund our schools, staff our health services, provide child care for our families, or build affordable housing in our neighborhoods. The state’s analysis estimates that in fiscal year 2026, sports gambling will generate about $20 million for North Carolina. This is less than 6% of the $342 million that the state will have given up in that year because of the corporate tax elimination put into place in 2021 — cuts that primarily benefit very wealthy people and corporations. The Fiscal Research Division estimates about $46 million in revenue by fiscal year 2028, but based on other states’ experience, even this small amount isn’t likely to be sustained over time.

In addition to the chunk of funds sidelined for attracting sporting events, the legislation identifies a range of priorities that will be funded with proceeds, including programs to address problem gambling — which is a cost likely to rise with the legislation.

It also directs funds to 10 universities (some of which must be used for college athletics), including HBCUs and minority-serving institutions. North Carolina’s HBCUs and many of its public universities are in desperate need of additional funding. HBCUs in particular have been systematically underfunded for years, and the NCGA should drive our state’s money to these crucial institutions. But the funds that will come from this bill are a drop in the bucket of what these schools need.

We know how to get the money our state needs — to fully fund HBCUs and provide youth with parks and recreation outlets: by asking corporations and very wealthy people to pay what they owe through taxes, and by using our public funds for public goods, instead of diverting them to profitable corporations.

North Carolina has long had a national reputation for protecting residents from deceptive and unfair business practices that rope people into activities that they and their communities can’t afford.  However, combined with their pursuit of tax breaks for the very wealthy and profitable corporations, the NC General Assembly’s bet on sports gambling shows that leaders have a losing hand.