Gov. Roy Cooper dropped by the Ovies+Giglio podcast on Wednesday to talk North Carolina sports betting, dropping a few hints about a possible launch date in the process.
We’re now more than six months past Cooper’s signing of House Bill 347, which legalized online sports betting and parimutuel wagering, and Cooper wants to get the ball rolling on the new industry.
“The goal is to get it out there before March Madness,” Cooper told Joe Ovies and Joe Giglio. “No guarantee that that’s the case, but I think that is the goal.”
The NC Lottery Commission has gone so far as to say that a North Carolina online sports betting launch won’t happen before the 2024 Super Bowl on Feb. 11, and Cooper’s comments fall in line with NCSharp’s projection of a March Madness 2024 launch.
Cooper supports the NCLC’s efforts to roll with the punches
After signing HB 347 into law, significant changes were made to the sports betting law while finalizing the state budget.
Among the major changes, the state went from allowing operators to launch in the state “untethered” from a pro sports team to requiring them to form written partnerships with a pro sports entity to enter the state.
Lawmakers also mandated that, in the case of opening a retail sportsbook at a pro sports venue, only the operator that partners with that team would be allowed to open a sportsbook on site.
Sports betting rules and regulations have taken the original law and the amendments made through the budget into account, and Cooper’s comments support the need for the NCLC to conduct their due diligence before assigning a launch date.
“They passed this legislation,” Cooper explained to the Ovies+Giglio podcast, “and then the general assembly came back and made some adjustments to it, which the lottery commission says has caused them to go back and re-do some things. This rule-making has to work. You’ve got to make sure that it is working right.”
After two rounds of rulemaking covering over 200 pages of sports betting rules, the NCLC appears to have completed the rulemaking process for sports betting. (A third round of rulemaking for parimutuel wagering may be forthcoming.)
Now, as regulators and Cooper indicate, the onus lies with the operators.
“They’re working on getting the rules and getting everybody licensed up and getting started,” said Cooper. “So, looking forward to that. I think it’ll be positive for our state, our economy, jobs. People are already doing it anyways, might as well have the North Carolina taxpayers get some benefit from this.”
If the rules are ready, why can’t we bet NOW?
The Joes entertained Cooper’s narrative, but like many North Carolinians, they wondered why this was taking so long.
Weekly trips across the border into Virginia to place bets with DraftKings and FanDuel take a toll and since we’ve got the rules in place, why not get started? Why wait when we’re in the busiest sports betting season of the year, and we can turn the spigot on the tax revenue faucet full blast?
“We’re working on it,” Cooper said.
Cooper’s response invoked a plea for patience from all North Carolinians interested in placing their first legal online bets.
“I don’t disagree with you as a fan and somebody who would want to place a bet. But you’ve got to make sure that the rules are right, and that everybody is complying with the law and that the state is getting it’s right amount of revenue. It’s pretty complicated to make sure that you follow all of the law that the general assembly has put in place.”
He’s remained connected to the process, keeping up with regulators and probably leaning on them a little to get NC online sports betting across the finish line.
“I had them all in the room over there the other day pushing them to say we’ve got to get this done as fast as we can.”
The recommended deadline for sports betting operators to submit applications is Dec. 27, and the NCLC Sports Betting Committee has a meeting scheduled for Jan. 4, 2024. We may very likely hear a target launch date during that meeting.
Cooper’s taking the ‘Canes to win the Stanley Cup
Cooper also touched on the tradition of a governor placing their state’s first legal bet. Cooper reiterated that his first bet, whenever that should be, will be for the Carolina Hurricanes to win the 2024 Stanley Cup.
It’s a good and safe bet. The ‘Canes, while off to a so-so start, have a lot of talent and should make a run in the NHL Playoffs. They’re also a team the whole state can support, making Cooper’s pick an easy one to get behind.
With that said, we’d love to see him instead make his first bet in March, before March Madness, on his alma mater North Carolina Tar Heels to win the NCAA National Championship.
If Cooper’s influence could get the market up and running by then, I’d hope all the Dukies out there would forgive him in the name of legal online sports betting.