Politics & Government

Don't expect North Carolina to place its bets on sports gambling just yet, leader says

Don't expect North Carolina state lawmakers to make a decision soon on whether the state should legalize gambling on sports, the leader of the state Senate said Tuesday.

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a 1992 federal law that banned sports gambling in all but a handful of states. Nevada was the only state where bettors could gamble on the outcome of a single game.

The court's decision opened the door for states to allow sports gambling. New Jersey, the state whose lawsuit led to the ruling, could allow wagers within two weeks. Several other states have passed sports gambling laws, contingent on the outcome of the Supreme Court case.

But North Carolina will take a slower approach, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger suggested.

"We just saw that decision yesterday. I haven't had a chance to read it. I'd be surprised if we had the ability to analyze that and make any decisions, one way or the other," said Berger, a Rockingham County Republican. "I think anything we do in that field will take a good bit of discussion and create some noise, I'm sure."

Rep. John Hardister, the House majority whip and a Guilford County Republican, co-sponsored legislation last year to regulate fantasy sports in the state. The proposal was defeated in a House committee.

In an email response to a question about sports gambling legislation, Hardister wrote: "I need to study the court ruling and learn more about this topic before drawing any conclusions."

The North Carolina General Assembly convenes Wednesday.

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The need for leaders to educate themselves on the issue extends beyond lawmakers.

“I'm going to have to learn a lot more about gambling,” N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow said Monday.

Congress, too, could get involved. The court's decision allowed for Congress to pass a new regulation. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said he planned to introduce legislation to deal with sports gambling on a nationwide basis.

"We cannot allow this practice to proliferate amid uneven enforcement and a patchwork race to the regulatory bottom. At stake here is the very integrity of sports," Hatch said in a statement.

Brian Murphy: 202-383-6089, @MurphinDC