In November 2023, the North Carolina Lottery Commission set a deadline for hopeful online sports betting operator license applications. A total of seven such potential operators rose to meet that challenge.
Should the Commission approve all seven applications, that would give North Carolinians access to some of the most popular legal sports betting apps in other parts of the United States. There are still opportunities for more options despite the deadline’s passing.
Starting seven for North Carolina sports betting
Hopeful operators had until Dec. 27, 2023 to submit applications to meet a deadline the Commission had imposed for consideration to start accepting wagers at the first opportunity in North Carolina. The seven applicants who met that deadline, according to the Commission, are:
- ESPN Bet
- Underdog Sports
It’s important to note that Caesars Sportsbook will be part of the landscape due to its partnership with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians as well. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians operates two brick-and-mortar casinos within the borders of North Carolina.
Exactly how long it will take the Commission to consider these applications is uncertain. However, those in North Carolina hoping for legal access to online sports betting before the forthcoming NFL playoffs begin should not hold their breath. By law, the Commission has 90 days to respond to applications.
That law enabling such gambling doesn’t take effect until Jan. 8, too. For those reasons, the Commission has ruled out a launch before Super Bowl LVIII. However, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has expressed his opinion that a launch before the 2024 NCAA D1 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments is possible.
The seven potential operators who got their applications in before the deadline are also probably hoping for a March Madness launch. Although Super Bowl Sunday represents the largest single day of the year for sportsbooks, March Madness is tops in terms of events on an annual basis in terms of how much action sportsbooks see.
That creates an incentive for the state as well to potentially capture some tax revenue from those wagers. While the deadline for first consideration has passed, North Carolina may yet get some more revenue from future applicants.
More opportunities remain for North Carolina sports betting
Under North Carolina law, online sportsbook operators looking to take action in North Carolina must partner with a venue like an auto or horse racetrack or a professional sports entertainment organization in the state. FanDuel has partnered with the PGA, for example.
BetMGM, DraftKings, and Underdog Sports have not yet confirmed their North Carolina partners. Unconfirmed reports have connected BetMGM and DraftKings to NASCAR, however. Including FanDuel, the other four applicants’ deals are public, however. The remainder are:
- Bet365 with the Charlotte Hornets
- ESPN Bet with the Quail Hollow Club
- Fanatics with the Carolina Hurricanes
Not counting NASCAR, that leaves six North Carolina sports entertainment organizations without sports betting partners to date. They are:
- Carolina Panthers
- Charlotte FC
- Charlotte Motor Speedway
- North Carolina Courage
- North Wilkesboro Speedway
- Sedgefield Country Club
While the deadline for first consideration has passed, the law allows the Commission to consider applications on an open basis. Applicants who submitted their form on or after Dec. 27, 2023, simply may not be part of the initial launch of legal online sportsbooks in North Carolina.
For now, the Commission may focus on getting the first batch of applicants processed and those that are approved live before considering additional applications. More information on that front could be forthcoming.
Next steps could be revealed soon
The North Carolina Lottery Commission’s Sports Betting Advisory Committee meets on Thursday, Jan. 4. The Commission itself meets a week later on Jan. 11. During those meetings, regulators could shed some more light on the process ahead.
On top of consideration of the applications, there are a few more matters to attend to. During its last meeting, the Commission shelved some rules on sportsbooks working with affiliates. They will have to revisit them at some point.
After approving applications, then the work of testing licensees’ systems for compliance begins. The Commission may identify a target date for licensees to start taking bets in the Jan. 11 meeting.
Even in that case, though, a target date is still tentative. Barring unpleasant surprises, it could give North Carolinians an idea of when they might be able to legally gamble on sporting events online without leaving their state.
If any of the seven applicants are part of that, it will be because they met the Commission’s deadline.