North Carolina Online Sports Betting Launch On the Way, Despite State Budget Changes

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The North Carolina State Lottery Commission is working hard to ensure that the state’s online sports betting market is ready to launch by early-to-mid 2024.

During a recent meeting, the commission discussed the upcoming rollout, including challenges posed by last-minute changes made to North Carolina online sports betting laws in the state’s budget.

The 2024 budget only recently passed after several weeks of delays in discussions at the State Senate in Raleigh (pictured). The holdup was actually because of another form of gambling, as state lawmakers pushed for three new North Carolina casino venues to be included in the final bill.

After less-than-positive responses from some communities proposed as sites for the casinos, the plans were dropped and the budget passed.

However, the new form of the budget did include several new rules for the state’s potential sportsbooks. One key change is that the Tar Heel state will become the only U.S. market where online sports betting licenses are tied to sports franchises. This decision reduced the number of licenses that will be available from 12 to seven, matching the proposed number of new North Carolina retail sportsbooks.

Regardless of the changes, the legislative mandate requires the market to be fully operational by mid-June 2024. However, the commission implied there’s potential for an earlier launch, possibly as soon as January.

“We will get sports betting and pari-mutuel wagering up and running before the deadline,” said a confident Sterl Carpenter, deputy executive director of gaming compliance and sports betting at the Commission.

Transparent Process

The commission also revealed that it had encountered difficulties in establishing a system for accepting mobile betting license applications.

An initial request for proposal (RFP) for an electronic system garnered four submissions, none of which met the commission’s criteria.

Consequently, the decision was made not to award any contracts at present. Instead, the commission will manage application submissions internally and draft a new RFP tailored to its long-term needs.

To further streamline the process, the commission has instituted a sports betting committee, comprising Chairman Ripley Rand and commissioners Cari Boyce and Pamela Whitaker. Boyce will chair the committee, which will tackle sports betting issues not covered by other committees. They are slated to commence meetings soon, with special meetings anticipated in late October and November to provide updates and open discussion.

State Budget Bill Introduces Changes

Another challenge has been the aforementioned last-minute changes to the sports betting legislation, pushed through with the state budget.

One significant amendment mandates mobile sportsbooks to forge partnerships with professional sports organizations. Additionally, teams and facility owners are restricted to a single sportsbook partner.

“The legislature chose the local teams and chose not to use the same sort of transparent process that we used for three years to pass the bill,” said lawyer Scott Ward, representing four major U.S. sportsbooks during the licensing process.

“This is how the legislative process works. Sometimes it works in your favor. Sometimes it doesn’t. It didn’t work in my clients’ favor this time.”

The new framework puts North Carolina’s sports teams at the center of the bidding process. The new decision-makers will include NFL’s Carolina Panthers, the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, and the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. Golf’s PGA Tour and NASCAR are also allowed to sponsor a new North Carolina online sportsbook, as they both visit North Carolina venues as part of their season.

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