Online NC Sports Betting To Complete 4-Year Journey To Launch

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NC sports betting

It took nearly more than four years with a few bumps in the road, but online NC sports betting is here. 

Online NC sports betting operators began allowing users to register and deposit into accounts earlier this month in anticipation of the March 11 launch date.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed online sports betting into law June 14, 2023, and while some markets have gone from signature to live in less than four months, North Carolina regulators took their time. But the journey to get to Cooper’s signature was an even longer saga.

Sports betting not new in North Carolina

While online sportsbooks are just debuting in the Tar Heel State, lawmakers legalized in-person sportsbooks at tribal casinos in 2019. There are three in the state: 

Through its partnership with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Caesars launched online sports betting on tribal lands earlier this month.

Why online NC sports betting lagged behind

With the tribal bill passed, lawmakers quickly turned their attention to expanding sports betting in North Carolina. 

In August 2019, legislators passed a sports betting feasibility study

The North Carolina Education Lottery commissioned Spectrum Gaming Group for the study. Spectrum presented the study in March 2020

NC sports betting talk heats up

By spring 2021, lawmakers started online legalization discussions in earnest. Sen. Jim Perry introduced a bill in April, and the chamber passed it in August.

The bill was bogged down in the fall by the state budget, and the House carried it over to the 2022 session. The 2022 session was an up-and-down story for online sportsbooks, but it ultimately came up just one vote short

Following the session, LSR reported on the push from US sportsbooks in North Carolina. That push, however, came after lawmakers voted on the legislation.

NC lawmakers push sports betting across the finish line

Following the close call in 2022, sportsbooks started a strong push in early 2023, including lobbying trips from former Charlotte Hornets Muggsy Bogues and Dell Curry.

Rep. Jason Saine started the bill’s journey, guiding it quickly through the House in March 2023. After a nearly two-month delay, the Senate approved the bill, with amendments, in June 2023.

The House concurred with the Senate changes June 7, 2023, sending it on to Cooper. The governor signed the legislation into law a week later.

But wait, there is more to NC sports betting law!

Despite a legal mandate for regulators to get sports betting live between January 8, 2024, and June 15, 2024, the NC Lottery did not get off to a quick start

In September 2023, lawmakers unexpectedly amended the online sports betting language during budget negotiations. The legislators tied sports betting licenses to professional sports organizations in the state. 

Following the changes, the NC Lottery began its charge toward launch. Regulators unveiled their first set of sports betting rules in October 2023, finalizing them in December.

NC operators start emerging 

The first seven sports betting license applicants were announced in December 2023. While some operators announced their partners prior, most partnerships emerged in January

The sports betting partnerships are: 

There are still three sports organizations without partners, including the MLS’s Charlotte FC and the NWSL’s NC Courage. Along with the state’s teams, the EBCI (Caesars) and Catawba Two Kings (TBA) can partner with sportsbooks for online access.

Delayed start in North Carolina

While state regulators often want to launch sports betting as quickly as possible, the NC Lottery ruled out a January 8 launch back in November. They also later ruled out a launch by the Super Bowl, a key date for sportsbooks to acquire users.

By late January, however, regulators determined they could go live prior to March Madness betting. The ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament starts March 12.

The NCAA Tournament is the last major sportsbook acquisition event until the NFL season starts in the fall.

NC sports betting projections

With NC sportsbooks live, LSR expects North Carolina to compete for a spot in the top five largest US markets. LSR projects sportsbooks could take up to $7 billion in wagers in the next 12 months.

The sportsbooks would generate $600 million in gross revenue during that year.

With the state levying an 18% tax rate on sports betting revenue, North Carolina could bring in a $65 million tax haul. That is in addition to potentially more than $10 million in licensing fees.