While North Carolina’s regulated online sports betting debut might have its starting eight operators later this year, the market might have a deep bench that could reveal itself later, too. Nearly 20 potential licensees expressed at least a moderate interest in operator licenses.
That interest might never translate to actually applying for a license, much less starting to take bets in North Carolina. However, the robust response could also signal that the market might eventually reach its full potential.
Seven applications in but more were requested
Right now, it seems North Carolina sports bettors will have eight choices at most for legal online sports betting later this year. That situation could be more fluid in the long term, though, because of a recent revelation.
On Jan. 4, members of the North Carolina Lottery’s Sports Betting Advisory Committee held a brief meeting. During that session, committee members voted to recommend two independent testing labs for approval to the lottery’s full commission.
Additionally, the lottery’s deputy executive director of gaming compliance and sports betting, Sterl Carpenter, informed the committee members of the progress on the license application process so far. Carpenter confirmed that seven applicants got their forms in before the Dec. 27, 2023 deadline.
- ESPN Bet
- Underdog Sports
Combined with Caesars Sportsbook, which has access by its partnership with the Eastern Cherokee Band of Indians, that means North Carolinians could have as many as eight options when legal online sports betting first begins in the state. That could happen in time for March Madness 2024.
Carpenter also shared that the lottery received 17 requests for operator license application forms. That information opens the door to myriad possibilities. Among those possibilities is that there could be more choices in the future.
An array of possibilities for outstanding applications
There is no public information on the state of the applications that requesters did not turn in by the Dec. 27 deadline. Other sportsbook operators, like BetRivers and Betway, have not made any statements about their interest in North Carolina or lack thereof.
Carpenter did not disclose the identities of all the parties that requested applications. It’s completely possible that the commission has already received all the operator license applications it will get. Other factors suggest that might not be the case, however.
North Carolina law requires online sportsbook licensees to partner with a sports entertainment organization or horse racetrack in the state. Several such eligible entities in North Carolina remain without such partners to date. Those outstanding vacancies involve the Carolina Panthers and North Carolina Courage among others.
Most of the hopeful licensees who have already turned in their applications already have partners of this kind. For example, Bet365 will work with the Charlotte Hornets. The fact that there are some license application forms out there that the commission has not yet received suggests the Courage and Panthers might not be without sports betting partners forever.
Carpenter made clear that the commission would consider licenses that come in on an open basis. At the same time, any licenses that come in past the Dec. 27 deadline might not be approved in time for the initial launch of legal online sports betting in North Carolina.
Eight options could be enough to get North Carolina off to a good start. Moving forward, the number of choices could expand in the state.