By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
June 7, 2019
RALEIGH – Wednesday, HB 929- Gaming Commission, legislation that would have legalized Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) gambling in North Carolina, was voted down 16-12 in the House Judiciary Committee.
The bill would have established a North Carolina Gaming Commission and authorized the regulation of Daily Fantasy Sports gaming under the Commission’s authority.
Primary sponsors of the legislation included Rep. Harry Warren (R-Rowan), c (R-Guilford), Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), and Rep. Howard Hunter (D-Gates).
The legislation had already cleared the House Commerce Committee last month.
Read related story: Gaming Commission Bill Contains Provision to Legalize Daily Fantasy Sports Gambling in NC
Debate on the bill started when Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) offered an amendment which would have removed the language that said DFS ‘did not constitute gambling,” but instead create a year-long study on the issue before declaring that it wasn’t.
Warren said it was “argumentative” as to whether DFS was gambling. “Some states have acted on this and declared it is gambling, and others have acted on it and declared it’s not,” he said. He urged committee members to vote against the amendment, arguing that the more important question was whether the state wanted to continue allowing something that was already happening to continue for another year without any regulation.
Rep. Allen McNeil (R-Randolph) then asked Warren if a study of DFS had never been done by the state, how was it possible to know whether the regulations proposed in HB 929 would provide sufficient regulation. Warren admitted he couldn’t know if the regulations in the bill would be sufficient, but he claimed the Gaming Commission would help the state to start getting “its arms around it now.”
Legislative staff explained to committee members that North Carolina had not stated statutorily whether DFS was gambling or not, which prompted Rep. Hugh Blackwell (R-Burke) to suggest that this was “one of the underlying issues” in the bill. He said that he thought the urgency behind passing legislation which defined DFS as not gambling was because “the Fantasy Sports people were worried a court or the Attorney General might determine it is” before they could get it legalized in the state.
Harrison reiterated her position and pointed out that nine states had declared DFS as gambling and it was premature for North Carolina to declare it was not gambling until a study could determine such critical questions. Committee members voted on Harrison’s amendment by a voice vote, which the Committee’s Chairman, Rep. Ted Davis (R-New Hanover) ruled failed.
Currently, gambling is illegal in North Carolina except for the state lottery and Tribal gaming. In an email and handout provided to House Judiciary Committee members before they met, Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, pointed out this fact and strongly warned that DFS was gambling.
Creech noted that the Washington D.C. based non-profit, Stop Predatory Gambling, had stated DFS was gambling, Gamblers Anonymous had added it to their list of gambling activities, and that there were quotes from numerous leaders in the gambling industry which stated DFS was gambling. Moreover, Creech explained the state had considered the same legislation the year before and Stop Predatory Gambling at that time warned it would “put internet gambling into every home, every dorm room, and onto every smartphone in North Carolina – a far greater expansion of commercialized gambling than constituents, legislators and state media had been led to believe.”
Rev. Creech also testified on the bill before the committee and said, “This legislation, unquestionably, is gambling,” and he asked lawmakers to consider a philosophical question.
“One of the arguments I’ve been hearing bandied about by some in favor of this legislation is that it’s already happening. Therefore, we need to regulate it and capitalize on the revenue. Well, sex trafficking is already happening. Shall we start regulating it too and capitalizing on the revenue? Because when you consider it carefully, there are striking similarities. Both inherently create slavery. And when the state authorizes gambling -something that promotes an inordinate lust for material gain – something that encourages the weak and susceptible to engage in a practice that will use them, fleece them, and empty them, and then the state seeks to capitalize on the revenue from it, is not the state taking unto itself the role of a pimp?
“Our objective should not be to regulate but to prohibit and enforce the law. So-called regulation will only affirm and expand DFS gaming. Prohibiting it won’t stop all violations. That’s understood. Nevertheless, it will hem it in, and its harms will be minimized.
“This bill has the wrong approach to DFS gaming.”
When the first voice vote was taken on the bill, it was abundantly clear the measure was in trouble with more opposition than expected. So Chairman Davis called for a second vote, but because of the closeness of the second vote, he was unable to call it reasonably. On a show of hands, it was determined the bill failed to pass committee by a vote of 16-12.
Davis ruled that the bill would remain in committee, which means at some point it could be reconsidered.