By Bill Finley
Tar Heel Downs anyone?
A sports betting bill that also contains language that will legalize racing in North Carolina was passed by the North Carolina State Senate Wednesday and now heads back to the House for a final vote. A similar bill, but one that did not include racing, has already been passed by the House, which will now vote on the amended legislation. The House is expected to vote in favor of the amended bill and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper is also believed to be on board.
But even if the bill is signed into law, it appears unlikely that anyone would step forward to open a track in the state. The bill does not include any provisions where a track could partner with a casino or have historical horse racing machines.
“We have a long way to go,” said North Carolina-based owner Hubert Vester Jr. “This bill moves us a step closer but I would have some concerns about the economic impact and the viability of actually having a racetrack here in North Carolina. Maybe if they had something in the Charlotte area it could draw enough people, but I think, first, it would take having an economic study that would address the viability of having a track in the state. It would be an uphill battle. Now that it's about to be legal, maybe that is a step in the right direction. But I still think there are some economic hurdles that would have to be crossed.”
While live racing is unlikely to happen in the state, the bill will allow for North Carolina residents to open Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) accounts, which are currently illegal.
“This is long overdue,” said North Carolina resident and owner-breeder Bill Thompson Jr. “There has been a conservative majority in the state for a while representing a religious constituency. We've had a state lottery for quite some time, but that's all we've had. Pari-mutuel betting in the state has been prohibited. To me, that's been a big inconvenience, not being able to bet on your own horses. To have it legalized now where it will come to pass that we can have ADW accounts and mobile wagering, that will be very much welcomed.”