By Peyton Majors
Christian Action League
June 24, 2022
The North Carolina House handed supporters of sports betting a major loss Wednesday when socially conservative Republicans teamed up with liberal Democrats to narrowly defeat a bill that would have dramatically expanded gambling across the state.
Numerous media accounts of the vote say the margin was 51-50, but the final vote count was 52-49. Rep. John Bell (R-Wayne), House Majority Leader, used a parliamentary procedure that allowed him to change his vote from a “yes” to “no,” and then make a motion to reconsider and send the bill back to the House Rules Committee for further deliberations. Bell’s motion, however, failed by a vote of 59-44.
By a final vote margin of 52-49, the unusual political coalition of liberal Democrats and socially conservative Republicans defeated SB 688.
Before the vote on SB 688 – Sports Wagering, a bill that moved on a parallel track, SB 38 – Sports Wagering Amendments, narrowly passed 51-50 and would have made amendments to SB 688 if it passed. (Betting on college sports would not have been allowed thanks to an amendment added to SB 38 that passed easily by a margin of 61-40).
However, in the end, 32 Republicans and 20 Democrats combined to defeat SB 688, making SB 38 without effect. Voting for it were 25 Republicans and 24 Democrats.
“To say that our state dodged a bullet is an understatement. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that the bill’s defeat was God showing mercy to the people of North Carolina,” said Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “The gambling industry had more than a dozen well-funded and powerful hired guns with staff members to help them press lawmakers to pass this legislation. Lobbyists, like myself (only four of us), looked like grasshoppers in their sight. But the Lord stepped into the moment, and that made the difference.”
Rep. Abe Jones (Wake), a Democrat, noted the bipartisan nature of the issue and urged House members to oppose the bill, saying the state should not be promoting what he called a “vice.”
“We all know there’s gambling in the world. Of course, there is. Always has been, probably always will be. But the issue for us is: Are we here in this legislature going to put our imprimatur, our approval, on a vice? It is a vice — pure, simple, no way around. … The question is, should the state of North Carolina endorse and administer gambling? The answer is no.”
Sports gambling, Jones added, “exploits the poor, the weak, the addicted.”
“It sucks you in — like into a black hole,” he said.
Even baseball great Pete Rose, Jones added, “couldn’t resist” the lure of sports gambling.
“The Good Book says the love of money is the root of all evil,” Jones said. “… And when we get pulled along because of money, just because the state can make a few extra dollars … we are forgetting our home training. Go back to your values.”
Rep. Pat Hurley (Randolph), a Republican, also opposed the bill, warning it would “impose a massive expansion of legalized gambling on North Carolina” by placing sports gambling “on every computer, tablet, phone and smart TV in the state.”
“Decades of research clearly demonstrates that the more prevalent gambling is and the more forms of gambling that are legalized and advertised, the more citizens will gamble,” Hurley said. “Of those who do, a significant percentage, typically between 3 and 5 percent, will develop a problem or pathological gambling issue. Conservative estimates suggests that North Carolina can expect to see tens of thousands more of our state’s citizens and their families being victimized by gambling addiction, and therefore — which some people don’t even think about — adds to our social service budget.”
Problem and pathological gambling, Hurley said, “manifests itself in increases in theft, embezzlement, job loss, personal bankruptcy, substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, divorce” and suicide.
Rep. Pricey Harrison (Guilford), a Democrat, said sports gambling likely would follow the same socioeconomic breakdown as the lottery by targeting lower-income individuals. She opposed the bill.
“We know from our lottery experience that the purchase of tickets is highest in counties with the highest poverty rate,” Harrison said.
Harrison labeled sports gambling a “predatory industry” that has “caused problems in every other state where it’s allowed.”
Rep. John Autry (Mecklenburg), a Democrat, reminded members of gambling scandals of the past, including the 1961 point-shaving scandal in the Dixie Classic. Autry voted against the bill.
“There used to be a game between N.C. State and UNC called the Dixie Classic,” he said. “And that was besmirched by a gambling scandal where some players were bribed to shave points. And whenever the point spread didn’t end up like the gamblers, the fixers, thought it should have, they challenged some of the N.C. State players after the game. And that was not a pretty scene. … What we do here today could have a negative impact and add another black spot on our great college sports programs in North Carolina.”
The Christian Action League is extremely grateful for the passionate arguments and hard work demonstrated by Democrats such as Representatives Pricey Harrison (Guilford), Deb Butler (New Hanover), Marcia Morey (Durham), John Autry (Mecklenburg), and Abe Jones (Wake). “We’re normally not on the same side, but their advocacy in this case was nothing less than heroic,” said Rev. Creech. “Stalwart Republicans with convictions, unmoved by power or the prospect of filthy lucre – people such as Pat Hurley (Randolph), Larry Pittman (Cabarrus) and Jay Adams (Catawba), also boldly spoke out in opposition. Our whole state owes a debt of gratitude to these people and all those wise enough and courageous enough to vote against this terrible legislation.”
It appears the measure is dead, but champions of the bill are committed to somehow reviving it.
The Christian Action League urges its supporters to watch their emails for Action Alerts and be ready to respond by contacting their representatives if needed.