GeoComply Analysis Shows North Carolina Sports Bettors Crave Legal Sportsbooks 

North Carolina’s neighbors are benefiting from the Tar Heel State’s inability to legalize sports betting, as there’s clear evidence that NC sports bettors are attempting to access legal sportsbooks in Virginia and Tennessee. 

GeoComply Senior Director of Government Relations Danny DiRienzo performed a heat-map analysis for NC Sharp that details the activity in the state over the last 30 days.

“We did a total of 103,000 geo-location checks,” DiRienzo said. “Somebody in NC was attempting to access a legal sportsbook in another state and that represented 26,000 unique user names.”

DiRienzo noted that the analysis was done during a slow season for sports betting, adding that these numbers will likely triple or quadruple in September when the NFL and college football are both well underway.  

“What this depicts is the level of interest and engagement from North Carolinians in legal sportsbooks, which is pretty high and would be even more compelling a month from now,” he said. “But even during a slow time, we have a lot of people in North Carolina still trying to access legal sportsbooks.”

View a map of the GeoComply data here

A total of 37% of the checks revealed North Carolinians attempting to access legal sportsbooks in Virginia and 8% in Tennessee. DiRienzo pointed out an interesting trend that occurred in the Outer Banks during this time period. The Outer Banks don’t have a large population base, but summertime visitors from New York, New Jersey, and other states generated significant activity over the last month.

“Clearly a lot of vacationers on the Outer Banks still trying to access sportsbooks elsewhere,” he said. “This actually does surprise me with the amount of cross-border activity from the Outer Banks.”

How Geo-Location Technology Works on Sportsbook Apps

GeoComply is the industry’s leading provider of geo-location technology that helps track betting activity across the US. The company’s list of clients includes BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars Sportsbook, PointsBet, and more. DiRienzo noted that GeoComply does more than 10 billion checks per year across the globe.

Sports betting apps come equipped with geo-locating capabilities that prevent bets from being placed outside of states where they’re legal. You don’t need to be a resident of a legal state to register for accounts at sportsbooks like BetMGM or DraftKings. You just need to physically be in the state when making a mobile sports bet. Geo-location checks are triggered in most cases by someone trying to log in to their sportsbook account.  

Residents of Charlotte, the largest city in NC, can cross the Tennessee state line into Pigeon Forge in two hours and 45 minutes. The drive to Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, using I-77 North is a little less onerous at two hours and 15 minutes. North Carolinians living close to the respective state lines enjoy the best of both worlds from a sports betting perspective. 

DiRienzo performed a second analysis for NC sports bettors living within a 30-kilometer range from Virginia. GeoComply’s technology revealed the same user names being used in both states. Main thoroughfares including I-95, I-85, I-77, and those coming from the Outer Banks saw significant activity.

“All of the major roadways between Virginia and NC see a lot of account movement back and forth across the border,” DiRienzo said. 

GeoComply does not have the ability to see consumers’ bets or the total volume of wagers being made, but when the same user name is captured in Virginia, the presumption is they are there to make mobile bets. 

“Generally speaking, in my experience, the vast majority of these are North Carolinians that are holding accounts elsewhere,” he said.  

What is the Future of Sports Betting in North Carolina?

North Carolina sports betting almost became a reality in 2022, but a late setback in the 11th hour derailed the path to legalization this summer.

State lawmakers were tasked with passing two sports betting bills — an amended SB 38 based on the original SB 688 — and much to the chagrin of NC bettors SB 688 lost by one vote in the House, 51-50.

The most likely scenario? North Carolina will revisit sports betting in 2023 unless lawmakers address it one final time before the current session ends prior to state elections in November.

Until then, North Carolina bettors will have to place their wagers in person at one of two retail sportsbooks in the western part of the state. A third retail sportsbook is expected to open in Kings Mountain in time for the NFL season.

The North Carolina Lottery Commission commissioned a series of reports to examine the economic impact of legalized gambling in the Tar Heel State. WRAL reported that the state could see up to $367 million in tax revenue from sports betting and $15 million on horse racing within five years.

GeoComply’s analysis revealed the sad bottom line for North Carolina and its state tax coffers.

“None of what you’re looking at in North Carolina resulted in wagers,” DiRienzo. “There is a lot of interest in your state, and this is how we know. We have geolocated 103,000 (bettors) in your state during the past 30 days that were trying to access legal sportsbooks.”

DiRienzo has investigated fraud throughout his professional career. He spent 25 years in the Secret Service and later served as a regulator in Tennessee before joining GeoComply. He’s been utilizing this technology for a long time and the data is also invaluable when it comes to identifying and preventing fraud in the sports betting industry. 

GeoComply helps clients identify things like fraud rings, identity theft, and potential abuse of sign-up bonuses.

“All of that data that’s used to determine a device’s location is really valuable information in preventing fraud,” he said.

AP Photo/Doug Murray

About the Author

Kris Johnson

With more than 15 years of experience as a sports journalist, Kris Johnson’s work has appeared in Sports Business Daily, Sports Business Journal, NASCAR Illustrated, and more. Kris also wrote a sports-betting novel entitled The Endgame.