Gov. Cooper Hopes North Carolina Sports Betting Begins for March Madness

Gov. Cooper Hopes North Carolina Sports Betting Begins for March Madness
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

There’s still no date set for when online North Carolina sports betting will launch, but Gov. Roy Cooper revealed in an interview on Wednesday that he wants it live before the NCAA men’s basketball tournament tips off.

The governor appeared on the Ovies & Giglio podcast, where the sports talk show hosts peppered him with questions about when bettors will be able to wager through NC sports betting apps without leaving the state.

Last month, the North Carolina State Lottery Commission announced that sports betting would not go live in time for the Super Bowl. Cooper added Wednesday that the legislature making changes in the budget three months after passing House Bill 347 caused some delays in the rulemaking process.

“You got to make sure that it is working right,” Cooper said. “The goal is to get it out there before March Madness. No guarantee that that’s the case, but I think that is the goal. They’re working on getting the rules, getting everybody licensed and getting started.”

The NCAA Tournament is one of the most popular events in the U.S. for sports betting. It’s typically also one of the biggest events, with teams like Duke and UNC traditionally among the contenders for the national title during March Madness and other in-state schools also earning bids to cut down the nets. You can check out Duke and North Carolina odds while you wait for launch.

Under HB 347, the earliest statewide sports betting could have started was Jan. 8. The lottery has until June 15, one year after Cooper signed the bill into law, to let licensees begin accepting wagers.

‘Working on It as Fast as They Can’

Cooper added he understands frustrations regarding not being able to bet legally in the immediate future and has been in contact with lottery officials regarding the process.

“It’s pretty complicated to make sure that you follow all of the law that the General Assembly had put in place,” the governor said. “They’re working on it as fast as they can. I had them all in the room over there the other day, pushing them, saying, ‘We’ve got to get this done.’”

In a statement, lottery spokesperson Van Denton said Cooper’s office recently asked the commission for an update on the work regarding sports betting, so the governor would have information to share with reporters conducting end-of-the-year interviews. While the commission said it has made “good progress,” more work remains.

“North Carolinians love basketball season and are looking forward for the chance to bet on their favorite teams and players,” Denton said. “With all the progress that’s been made, the commission expects to be in a position soon to announce when sports betting can begin in North Carolina.”

License Application Deadline Looming

The Lottery Commission requests interested operators to submit their applications by Wednesday if they want to start when the state sets the launch date.

State officials will have 60 days to review the applications, and operators must have a partnership in place with the PGA Tour, NASCAR, an in-state major professional sports team, or a venue that hosts an annual PGA Tour or NASCAR event. That was one of the requirements lawmakers added to the budget passed in September.

Last week, the lottery announced 14 operators had expressed interest in applying for a license.

Those that already have expressed an intent to apply include bet365, which has an agreement in place with the Charlotte Hornets; ESPN Bet North Carolina, which landed a deal with Quail Hollow Golf Club; Fanatics, which will partner with Carolina Hurricanes; and FanDuel, which signed with the PGA Tour. Those partnerships are contingent on the lottery approving those operators for licenses.

While operator license applications will receive top priority for reviews, they’re not the only applications the commission will receive. It will also go through dozens of forms submitted by vendors and suppliers that will work with approved sportsbooks.

The Lottery Commission’s Sports Betting Committee is scheduled to meet next on Jan. 4.

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Author

Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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