By GARY D. ROBERTSON Associated Press
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Legislation to regulate fantasy sports games in North Carolina lost again at the General Assembly, two weeks after it breezed through an initial committee with a proposed state gaming commission attached.
The House Judiciary Committee failed on Wednesday to recommend the measure, which would require state registration and fees by game operators, along with restrictions to discourage financial mischief and monetary penalties for company violators.
The popular online and app games already are played in North Carolina and in most other states, but not all of the states have formally legalized the industry.
A combination of social conservatives, former law enforcement officers and liberal Democrats on the committee defeated the measure Wednesday. Some were worried about putting the state’s imprimatur upon the games, which critics still label as gambling.
One provision said fantasy sports games, operating under names like DraftKings and FanDuel, don’t meet the state’s definition of gambling — and that was “a step too far,” said GOP Rep. and former Randolph County chief deputy sheriff Allen McNeil, after the 12-16 vote against advancing the bill to another committee.
The proposed gaming commission in the bill also would consolidate state oversight of the state lottery, bingo, raffles and boxing from several agencies, in addition to the fantasy games. Such activities are currently regulated by separate lottery and boxing commissions and state law enforcement agencies.
Gaston County Republican Rep. John Torbett also voted against the bill, saying he needed more information about the wide-ranging activities by the commission, which if approved would do away with the current state lottery commission.
Fantasy contests usually involve creating lineups of players from professional sports leagues. The fantasy participants score points and win cash prizes on individual statistical performances.
In 2017, a bill that addressed only fantasy sports failed to advance in a House committee, then fizzled out when a similar gaming commission was added. Until Wednesday, it appeared this year’s combination measure had more support, passing the House Commerce Committee in May.
Supporters of the measure said it would lead to age restrictions and other consumer-friendly rules. On Wednesday, bill sponsor GOP Rep. Harry Warren of Rowan County warned colleagues against an amendment that called for studying fantasy sports further, not regulating it.
That change, Warren said, would “allow fantasy sports to continue to operate in this state without any restrictions, without any regulations, without any oversight.” The amendment failed, and so did the full bill moments later.
GOP Rep. Jason Saine of Lincoln County, another bill sponsor, said he wasn’t surprised by the result, and acknowledged the bill could resurface again during the two-year session.
“We are a deliberative body,” Saine said after the vote. “And people get a chance to vote on bills whether they support them or not.”