Recent developments in North Carolina could lead to the state launching sports betting later than some in the gaming industry have hoped. Multiple insiders tell BetCarolina.com they have growing doubts that NC betting apps will be ready for the NFL playoffs.
One said they’ve heard a target launch date of March 1, which would allow operators to accept wagers on March Madness. However, that would be nearly three weeks after the Super Bowl.
A reason they say why North Carolina sports betting may be pushed back is last week’s decision by the North Carolina Lottery Commission to approve sales of online instant games.
Media reports indicate those games would become available by Nov. 15. State lawmakers charged the same commission with drafting rules for sports betting and licensing operators to accept wagers statewide. It’s leading some to question whether North Carolina should consider establishing a separate gaming commission in the state.
North Carolina Lottery Communications Director Van Denton told BetCarolina.com Tuesday that lottery staffers are "working hard to make sure we have sports gaming in place in an effective and appropriate fashion as soon as possible." He reiterated that the state's sports betting law gives the agency until next June to launch.
"While we are also focused on innovation to keep our lottery games fresh and entertaining for the public, we understand both the urgency and the substantial efforts required in getting sports gaming up and running in accordance with the General Assembly’s mandate," Denton said.
"One team of staff members is working on sports betting regulations from scratch. A different team is adding digital instants to an Online Play platform that lottery players have used for years to play draw games such as Powerball and Mega Millions. Both projects are important priorities for our state and work on one is not causing any delays to the other.”
North Carolina Sports Betting Launch Window Starts Jan. 8
North Carolina lawmakers sent House Bill 347, the sports betting bill, to Gov. Roy Cooper on June 7. Cooper signed it into law a week later at a public event at Spectrum Center in Charlotte.
Language in the bill mandated that sports betting could launch no sooner than Jan. 8, 2024, and no later than a year after Cooper approved it. The lottery’s work to establish regulations and approve operators could start anytime, but no rules could take effect until Jan. 8.
The new law calls on the commission to let sports betting start “as soon as practicable.”
According to the North Carolina law, up to 12 sports betting operators would be allowed to receive licenses. Operators are also encouraged to partner with the state’s major professional teams or facilities that hold NASCAR races or professional golf tournaments. Brick-and-mortar sportsbooks would be allowed at up to eight venues that host major league teams or professional events.
Sports betting may not be the only additional gaming option authorized by the North Carolina General Assembly this year. Lawmakers continue to negotiate a budget agreement, and there has been some talk of legalizing land-based casinos, video lottery terminals and perhaps even online casino gaming in the state.
A draft bill legalizing casino gaming reviewed by BetCarolina.com would also give the Lottery Commission oversight of those venues.
Online Lottery Expected To Generate More Revenue
There is logic in the commission moving forward with iLottery games first. For starters, it’s expected to bring in about $420 million in new revenue over the first five years.
The state’s sports betting tax, which would take 18% of each operator’s gross gaming revenue, is expected to generate about $345 million through the 2027-28 fiscal year.
However, if sports betting does not start in early January, North Carolina would miss out on having sportsbooks take bets on NFL playoffs. While regular season weeks, which feature more contests, generate the highest handles, postseason football games also generate significant betting traffic.
And the Super Bowl is the largest one-day event in U.S. sports betting, with billions wagered legally and illegally across the country.
The commission has also made some progress with sports betting. Last month, North Carolina Lottery officials hired Sterl Carpenter from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to be deputy executive director of gaming compliance and sports betting.
Carpenter started in the new position earlier this month.
Keep tabs on BetCarolina.com for more updates, plus the best North Carolina sportsbook promos when the time comes.