Seven companies submitted applications for North Carolina sports betting operator licenses to the state’s lottery by Wednesday, the recommended deadline officials gave to sportsbooks interested in going live as soon as possible in the Tar Heel State.
On Friday morning, the North Carolina State Lottery Commission released the applicants’ names as well as the initial pool of those seeking service provider and supplier licenses. The first operator license applicants were bet365, BetMGM, DraftKings, Fanatics, FanDuel, Penn Sports Interactive (which operates ESPN BET), and Underdog Sports.
Caesars Sportsbook North Carolina applied for a service provider license. The Nevada-based gaming giant operates two Harrah’s casinos in western North Carolina for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. House Bill 347 gave the state’s tribal gaming operators access to statewide online licenses. Those casinos already have brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.
While the lottery will continue to accept applications from interested operators, the commission announced last month that those who want to be able to start taking wagers on the first day of North Carolina sports betting should submit a complete application by Wednesday.
The launch date for statewide online wagering has yet to be released. However, lottery officials have already stated it will not be in time for the Super Bowl on Feb. 11. Earlier this month, Gov. Roy Cooper said he hopes online North Carolina sports betting apps can accept wagers for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in March.
Now Comes The Reviews
Wednesday was the latest milestone toward North Carolina joining the 28 other states and the District of Columbia that permit statewide online sports betting. Vermont will join that group next month. By virtue of its tribal sportsbooks, North Carolina is already one of 37 states and D.C. that have legalized sports betting to some extent.
“Commission staff are now compiling and organizing the large volume of information contained in each application in order to assess the completeness of each submission and then undertake a substantive review,” the lottery said in a statement.
The commission has 60 days to review the applications to determine if they’re complete and if the applicants meet the criteria to be awarded a North Carolina sports betting operator license. Under HB 347, sports betting must launch by June 15. More information about the sports betting licensing process could be announced as soon as next week. The Lottery Commission’s Sports Betting Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday.
Operators Must Find A Partner
After passing HB 347 in June, North Carolina lawmakers tweaked the licensing process three months later when they passed the state’s budget. The amendments included a requirement that companies seeking an operator license must have a “written designation agreement” with an in-state major professional sports team, an in-state facility that hosts an annual PGA Tour or NASCAR event, NASCAR or the PGA Tour to be approved.
Cooper said the legislature’s action with the budget led to some delays with the lottery in developing its rules and regulations for sports betting. The agreement requirement also added a hurdle that some smaller operators criticized, saying that forcing an in-state partnership made it harder to operate successfully in the state.
Some operators have already announced their North Carolina partners, with bet365 connected to the Charlotte Hornets, ESPN BET signed to Quail Hollow Golf Club, Fanatics pairing with the Carolina Hurricanes, and FanDuel gaining access through the PGA Tour. Those partnerships are contingent on the lottery granting the operator a license.
Other entities that may enter into written designation agreements include the NC Courage of the NWSL, the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, MLS franchise FC Charlotte, Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, Charlotte Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway and NASCAR.
The only new name among the first batch of operators is Underdog Sports. Underdog is a fantasy sports provider across most of the country. The Brooklyn-based company did receive a sports betting license from the Ohio Casino Control Commission last year, but it has yet to launch.