Is NASCAR Driving Force For NC Sports Betting Changes?

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NC sports betting

An industry source said Wednesday that NASCAR officials pushed for proposed NC sports betting law changes that emerged in the state budget.

Legislators are voting Thursday and Friday on a budget deal that includes language altering the online North Carolina sports betting law. The change would require online sportsbook operators to access the market through professional sports organizations in the state.

The sports betting proposal emerged earlier this week. An industry source told LSR Wednesday that NASCAR, which has a Charlotte headquarters, is pushing for the move. NASCAR declined to comment on the situation Thursday.

Gov. Roy Cooper signed the initial North Carolina sports betting law in June.

What would change in NC sports betting?

In the original legislation, no more than 12 mobile sportsbooks can operate in the state. Several of those sportsbooks could also partner with sports facilities in North Carolina to open in-person sportsbooks.

Should the budget proposal pass, a sports betting operator would be required to secure “a written designation agreement with” a professional sports organization, which could be a motorsports facility or “a sports governing body that annually within a calendar year sanctions more than one [NASCAR] national touring race in the state.”

The budget proposal clarified that the North Wilkesboro Speedway qualifies for an in-person sportsbook because it hosted the NASCAR All-Star Race, which qualifies as a second-sanctioned race in North Carolina.

The proposal eliminates the 12-sportsbook limit, instead requiring operators to partner with sports organizations in the state to qualify for a license. At least nine organizations would qualify under the new rules if passed. Original bill sponsors were not included in the proposal, according to industry sources.

NC sports betting delay ahead?

The NC sports betting law requires a rollout between January 8, 2024, and June 14, 2024. North Carolina sports betting regulators have slowly made progress toward launching.

The North Carolina Education Lottery hired a sports betting leader, as well as Gaming Laboratories International to help get the industry off the ground. Lottery officials said they hope to go live as close to January 8 as possible.

However, the budget proposal could throw the timeline off-course and cause difficulties for the Lottery to meet launch deadlines, according to an industry source. A Lottery spokesperson said the regulators continue to push forward to push sports betting live as quickly as possible.

“The North Carolina State Lottery Commission continues to move forward with the substantial efforts required to responsibly license and regulate sports betting and pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing. It will follow the new sports wagering law as approved by the NC General Assembly,” according to a spokesperson. “Notably, the proposed revisions to the new sports wagering and horse race wagering law do not change the June 14, 2024, deadline for the Commission to implement the State’s new wagering initiatives. The Commission’s goal is to make sure sports gaming gets up and running in an effective, appropriate fashion as soon as possible.”

NASCAR sports betting ambitions

NASCAR views legalized betting as a way to grow the sport by increasing education and engagement. Earlier this year, Autoweek published an article titled “NASCAR May Be Sports Gambling’s Next Frontier.” Phoenix Raceway in Arizona is connected to a sports betting license with Penn Entertainment as well.

North Carolina can be considered a home state for NASCAR’s, including a headquarters and two tracks that host races.

During discussion on a separate budget tax issue Thursday, Rep. John R. Bradford said, “We’re a motorsports state.”

North Carolina budget process dragged

The journey to the planned vote for the $30 billion budget this week took a winding road. A budget was supposed to be passed at least two months ago.

The biggest obstacle was a Republican-led plan to use a Medicaid expansion requiring the budget for implementation to push a commercial casino plan. Democratic leaders including Cooper were unhappy about the ploy and ultimately killed the deal.

The final budget agreement was released Wednesday night.