After a Super Bowl launch of North Carolina online sports betting got shot down on Wednesday, a launch by the start of March Madness appears within reach.
Ripley Rand, chair of the NC Lottery Commission, uttered the news that online sports betting in North Carolina would not launch before the Super Bowl at the end of Wednesday afternoon’s NCLC meeting.
“We see questions about whether sports betting will be up and running in time for the Super Bowl,” Rand said, “It’s clear, however, with all the work remaining to be done and the timetable set out in state law that unfortunately won’t be the case. Approving applications is a major step forward. With all the progress we’ve made, we expect to be in a position early in the New Year to announce when sports betting can begin in North Carolina.”
The NCLC will meet again in the middle of December. They’ve also set Dec. 27 as the deadline for all sports betting applications. We know regulators can take between 60 and 90 days to fully vet operators before launch, so NCSharp is using this timeframe to reconsider five possible North Carolina online sports betting launch targets.
Projecting an NC online sports betting launch date
To be clear, the 60-day vetting period for regulators begins when the completed application is submitted and not at the application deadline. But to give an idea of timeframes, 60 days from Dec. 27 is Feb. 25, 2024, and 90 days from Dec. 27 is March 26, 2024.
Previously, the NCLC had ruled that a launch by the Jan. 8 opening of the sports betting launch window was off the table. That came as no surprise considering how slowly the Commission took up its sports betting regulatory work. Taking the Super Bowl off the table also didn’t seem surprising even though a Super Bowl launch would’ve netted the state tremendous revenue. As Rand noted, much work still needed to be done.
Knowing now that we have an application deadline and a timeframe for vetting applicants, a narrower range of launch dates comes into focus, and late February to early March looks to be when that window will crack open.
With that in mind, here are five possible launch dates, ranging from the most ambitious to the safety net.
#1 March 9, 2024, UNC vs. Duke men’s basketball in Durham
Outlook: Most ambitious
Since the first UNC vs. Duke men’s basketball game tips off before the 2024 Super Bowl, we crossed that date off our list, leaving the second matchup in this classic rivalry as an apt yet ambitious potential launch date for NC online sports betting.
The second game comes days before the ACC basketball tournament, and we see every indication that a Saturday evening game at Coach K Court between the Tar Heels and Blue Devils would be a great launch event.
Gov. Cooper could place the state’s first bet that morning. He’s a two-time UNC alum, so there’s that too.
#2 March 12, 2024, ACC men’s basketball tournament
Outlook: Very ambitious
Yes, it’s only three days later, but now’s the time to split hairs.
The ACC tournament will be held in Washington D.C., and UNC, Duke and NC State may all be in position to make a run at the ACC title.
Plenty of North Carolina fans will be interested in NCAA basketball betting for this event, and it would be a great opportunity to launch online sports betting in advance of the five days of ACC tournament play.
#3 March 21, 2024, Round one of March Madness
Outlook: Possible if they bear down
This date misses the First Four games, but if regulators need an extra day or two to check the necessary boxes, that’s no big loss.
A March Madness launch has to be at the top of mind for Sterl Carpenter, deputy director of sports betting for the NCLC. Outside of the Super Bowl–the single-biggest wagering day in the country–the men’s March Madness tournament represents the largest betting event on the calendar.
In Jan. 2023, Ohio launched online and retail sports betting. In March the state netted nearly $100 million in gaming revenue, largely due to March Madness. North Carolina, with one million fewer people than Ohio, could see a similar windfall.
It’s a no-brainer to shoot for March Madness, and, knowing it’s at least within reach given the state’s timeframe for vetting operators, we expect Carpenter and the NCLC to work hammer and tongs toward a March 21, 2024, launch.
#4 April 8, 2024, first day of the Masters Tournament
Outlook: Consolation date
Masters office pools are increasing in popularity, fantasy golf has taken off and golf betting in general is thriving in the US.
We could see the NCLC launch online sports betting by April 8. It’s outside of the extended 30-day vetting period, and there are not a lot of major betting events on the horizon after the Masters.
#5 June 6, 2024, start of the NBA Finals
Outlook: Safety net
At this point, we wholeheartedly expect the NCLC to have sports betting up and running before the NBA finals, but if, for some reason, a wrench is thrown in the gears and the June 14, 2024, deadline is looming, the Commission should absolutely aim to launch by June 6.
The NBA Finals is among the few betting high points in the summer months, and North Carolina regulators will have this in mind if the launch process carries on into the summer months.
Image Credit: Michael Caterina / AP Images