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Lawmakers look to allow beer sales at college games

March 15th, 2019

— New legislation would open the door to beer and wine sales at college sports games across the state.

There are already a handful of carve-outs in the law for alcohol service in parts of public stadiums and arenas, and some private schools in the state sell stadium-wide. But legislation with key Republican sponsors in both the House and the Senate would open up sales stadium- and arena-wide for public universities, if a campus’ board of trustees votes to allow it.

The bill already has support from the chairs of most of the state university system’s Board of Trustees.

ACC Tournament beer

House Majority Leader John Bell and Sen. Rick Gunn, the majority whip in the Senate, plan to file their bill next week. It wouldn’t allow hard liquor sales, just been and wine.

“This is a great economic move for public universities and all of the college sports fans in our state!” Gunn, R-Alamance, said in a tweet about the bill.

The measure is sure to generate some pushback, as alcohol bills almost always do. But Bell said the trend across the country is clearly toward allowing these sales, particularly as live sporting events face more competition for people’s attention.

Bell, R-Wayne, said Friday that more than 50 NCAA FBS schools allow alcohol sales throughout their stadiums. He said most of the schools in the University of North Carolina system are in favor of the bill.

The two legislators are also coming to the debate prepared with statistics that, they say, show it’s safer to sell to fans during the game. Bell said West Virginia has been selling since 2011 and that police there reported a 35 percent decrease in alcohol-related offenses.

He said Ohio State saw a drop as well when it moved to stadium-wide sales in 2016 and that the university generated nearly $1.2 million from beer sales that year.

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In-stadium sales, Bell said, cut down on pre-game binge drinking.

“You see it all the time,” he said. “That’s where the problems come into play because it’s not a controlled environment.”

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