Gov. Cooper Appeals Yet Again For A March Madness Sports Betting Launch

qBy law, North Carolina can launch its sports betting market any time between Jan. 8 and June 14, 2024. But, Gov. Roy Cooper has stated for a third time that he wants it to be online for March Madness. This is according to WSOC-TV Channel 9 in Charlotte.

The men’s March Madness tournament begins with its full first round of games on March 21.

State regulators with the NC State Lottery Commission must vet sportsbooks and finalize rules for sports betting before that happens.

Thus far, nine sports betting operators have submitted an application for a license. Those licenses have yet to be awarded. But, given timelines in other states, licensure, testing, and other steps needed for an NC online sports betting launch can be accomplished before mid March.

Online sportsbooks will launch before retail

The North Carolina State Lottery Commission has hinted that online sportsbooks will be in business before brick-and-mortar locations. The regulatory work and preparation for launch is being overseen by Sterl Carpenter, head of the state’s new sports betting division.

A few wrinkles have required ironing out by the state, including a pivot by lawmakers regarding arrangements between sportsbooks and “sponsors” within the state. The NC State legislature amended its laws to require sports betting operators to enter into a written designation agreement with a professional sports entity in the state in order to qualify for consideration for a license.

The NC Lottery Commission recommended that sports betting operators submit their internal controls documentation by Jan. 26. That deadline put the ball in the operators’ court, and indicates that a March Madness launch could be in play if operators so desire.

As of yet, the NC Lottery Commission has not made a definitive statement on a target launch date for online or retail sportsbooks in the state.

Gov. Cooper keeps pressure on lottery commission

It seems the Lottery Commission may be feeling the pressure from the governor’s office. At a Jan. press conference in his office, Cooper said, “The idea is to try to get it in place before March Madness. There’s a lot going on at the Lottery Commission to make sure that that process goes the right way.”

Cooper doubled down on Jan. 9, telling reporters outside the statehouse that the “idea is to try to get [online sports betting] in place before March Madness.” Cooper’s comments to WSOC–that he “hopes that sports betting will launch by March Madness”–represent his third push for a mid-March launch date.

In December, seven operators met a deadline for applications intended for those who wish to be online starting day one in 2024. Those operators were Bet365, BetMGM, DraftKings, ESPN Bet, Fanatics, FanDuel Sportsbook, and Underdog Sportsbook. Seventeen sportsbooks requested a license, but only the seven listed above made the deadline.

Many states have set separate launch dates for online and retail sportsbooks. Also, it’s typical that a state would launch with a handful of sports betting operators and add more later.

Sportsbooks will usually release their NC sports betting promos in the days and weeks before the scheduled launch date.


Image Credit: Ben McKeown / AP Images

About the Author

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes writes about sports betting, sports media, and sports betting legislative matters. He's the author of three books, and previously reported for Major League Baseball, as well as the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.