The regulatory process for legal online sports betting in North Carolina is moving forward even if it is not happening at the pace some in the state would like. On Wednesday morning, members of the North Carolina Lottery Commission took a big step toward launching online sportsbooks.
A second batch of regulations governing that activity is now final, essentially completing that task. With other moving parts in progress, the timeline for a late first-quarter 2024 launch for North Carolina sports betting apps remains feasible. The commission had previously ruled out a launch before the Feb. 11 Super Bowl.
Commission approves draft rules with one exception
During the North Carolina Lottery Commission’s meeting on Dec. 13, the members considered the latest submission of proposed rules from the lottery’s sports betting committee. That submission addressed many aspects of regulation the first set of rules didn’t include.
For example, the second draft addressed responsible gambling standards including impermissible language in marketing. The second batch also limited advertising for sportsbooks at sporting venues in North Carolina.
After consideration, the committee encountered one issue with the draft rules. A paragraph regarding licensees working with marketing affiliates drew heavy attention during the public comment period. Because of the issues the comments presented, the commission approved a motion to amend the rules to strike that paragraph.
With that exception, the commission approved the remainder of the rules unanimously. The lottery’s sports betting committee will work more on drafting rules regarding affiliate marketing and re-submit new language for the commission to consider.
Amid that activity, the commission is likely enjoying a bit of a respite before the action really picks up toward the end of December.
Deadline for license application submissions approaching
Wednesday’s meeting came exactly two weeks prior to a Dec. 27 deadline for hopeful licensees to submit their applications. That includes not only sportsbook operators but vendors that provide them with necessary services as well.
While the commission could consider license applications past that date as well, that is the deadline the commission set for consideration to have approval at the earliest opportunity. Applicants who submit their forms past that deadline could risk not being able to take advantage of the new market on its first day.
By law, the commission has 90 days to render decisions on applications. While the commission may not do so, that would put the first approvals in line for late March. More expedient approvals on at least some of the licenses are more likely, though.
If the first approvals happen in January or February, that would give regulators weeks to conduct final testing and certifications to actually allow legal online sportsbooks to start taking bets in North Carolina. Wednesday’s approval of the rules allows the commission to shift its focus to the applications. For that reason, Wednesday’s meeting makes North Carolinians being able to legally bet on March Madness games in 2024 a little more probable.
And once online sports betting launches in North Carolina, lawmakers could turn their attention to again proposing allowing retail casinos (outside of the three tribal casinos in the state) and eventually NC online casinos.