Fantasy sports operators offering pick’em-style contests scored a victory in North Carolina Tuesday when staffers for the state’s lottery commission recommended spiking a proposed rule to bar those games.
The commission’s Sports Wagering Committee approved that recommendation when it voted unanimously to present the first set of NC sports betting regulations to the full State Lottery Commission. Commissioners are scheduled to meet Thursday to review the recommended rules and are expected to approve them.
Commission staffers presented their first set of recommended rules to the committee nearly a month ago. During a review period that ended on Nov. 1, comments on a proposal regulation that would bar fantasy games “based on proposition wagering or contests that involve, result in or have the effect of mimicking proposition wagering or other forms of Sports Wagering” generated a nearly even number of comments from people and groups on both sides of the issue.
The proposal was similar to recent moves in several states to bar single-player fantasy games and other pick’em-style games in which contestants select several athletes and choose whether each athlete will or won’t hit a statistical benchmark in their game or competition.
North Carolina Lottery Chief Legal Officer Billy Traurig said staffers will continue to study the fantasy sports issue.
“However, we want to take this time to focus on moving the rules forward, getting the operators licensed… and have sports betting launched in a timely and efficient manner,” he explained. “So, we are following the directive we received from the General Assembly and signed by the governor so that the public can start wagering on sports betting as soon as possible, and not worry about this at this time.”
‘Step in the Right Direction’
Proponents of the fantasy sports ban argue that pick’em-style games and single-player games do not differ from parlays offered by sports betting operators. FanDuel and DraftKings have been especially critical of the contests offered by the likes of PrizePicks, Underdog Fantasy and Sleeper. FanDuel and DraftKings, of course, will be among the many NC sports betting apps that will be in the market in 2024.
Several states, including Michigan and New York, already have taken action to bar such games. Colorado gaming regulators held a public hearing on their proposed rule earlier this month.
A group representing those fantasy operators defends the contests by saying they’re games of skill that fantasy players like. In addition, efforts to remove them would stifle innovation within the industry.
Allison Harris, a spokesperson for the Coalition for Fantasy Sports, told BetCarolina.com in a statement that the commission’s decision to pull back the rule was the right way to go, especially since lawmakers did not intend to bar fantasy games when they passed House Bill 347 in June.
“This is a step in the right direction, and we plan to continue participating in the rulemaking process,” Harris said. “It is important for rule-making to match legislative intent, and we thank the North Carolina legislators for their continued leadership.”
Also, at Tuesday’s meeting, lottery commissioners announced that North Carolina statewide sports betting would not launch on Jan. 8, the earliest date allowed under HB 347. The exact date when online sports betting apps and sportsbooks at certain sports venues will be announced later.
When sports wagering does get going, a full array of North Carolina sportsbook promos will be available.