How North Carolina Online Sports Betting Impacts Greensboro

Richard Beard, CEO Greensboro Sports Foundation
Source: Greensboro Sports Foundation

When North Carolina legalized online sports betting, the law largely excluded one of the state’s sporting hubs: Greensboro.

While teams such as the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Hornets don’t call Greensboro home, the community seemingly always has top-tier athletic competitions on the calendar.

NCSharp connected with Greensboro Sports Foundation President Richard Beard to learn more about how Greensboro was excluded from the state’s online sports betting law. Beard, a Greensboro native, has worked in leadership roles within the community for more than 25 years.

“Greensboro is always an exciting destination for sports fans because of our history in sports and our passion for hosting these events,” he told NCSharp via email. “Our entire community embraces these events when in town.”

Granted, Greensboro customers can still bet on sports from their mobile devices when NC online sports betting goes live on March 11. But for fans attending an event at the Greensboro Coliseum, they will not be greeted with a brick-and-mortar sportsbook.

The excitement that retail sports betting brings is something Beard would have liked to cultivate in Greensboro.

“A live sportsbook they can access brings even more excitement.”

Greensboro won’t have a retail sportsbook, which is a concern

Starting as a senior project manager with the Greensboro Chamber Economic Development Committee in 1996, Beard knows the ins and outs of the area and remains in tune with its pulse.

Beard said that Greensboro is known as a “sports-centric community.” That didn’t matter, though, when it came to the types of sports entities online sportsbooks could partner with in North Carolina.

“We are proud of our branding and reputation as ‘Tournament Town,'” he said. “While we are the third-largest city in North Carolina and have the largest arena, capacity wise, of any arena in North Carolina and one of the largest in the country, for that matter, the sports gambling bill did not include Greensboro because of the definition of a ‘sports facility.'”

North Carolina was specific when it handed out sports betting operator licenses. Eleven master licenses went to professional sports teams and venues. Five went to the state’s pro sports teams: Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, Carolina Hurricanes, Charlotte FC and NC Courage. Two licenses went to the state’s auto racing tracks: Charlotte Motor Speedway and North Wilkesboro Speedway. Quail Hollow and Sedgefield, two PGA Tour golf courses, received licenses, too. The PGA itself got one, as did NASCAR.

The Greensboro Coliseum does not house any sort of professional sports team. But Beard argues that it shouldn’t matter based on the number of customers that walk through its doors each year.

“We host over 1,100 events each year (sports, consumer shows, concerts, etc.) with over 1.2 million patrons coming through the door.”

For instance, last year the Greensboro Coliseum hosted 2023 NCAA Tournament basketball games, featuring teams such as Kentucky, Kansas State and Iowa State. It has hosted 12 men’s NCAA tournaments in its history.

The ACC recently announced its plans for the ACC Basketball Tournament through 2029. Greensboro, which has hosted the event a league-leading 29 times, will host the men’s tournament again in 2027 and 2029.

The Greensboro Coliseum has hosted the Women’s ACC Basketball Tournament every year but one since 2000. It will play host this and next year as well.

The city also hosts USA Swimming, Gymnastics and Figure Skating events.

Greensboro missing out on tax dollars, ‘layer of excitement’ with no retail sportsbook

Given this, Beard believes Greensboro is missing out on extra dollars from not having a brick-and-mortar sportsbook inside the arena.

“While everyone will have access to mobile sports betting, what we cannot have at the Greensboro Coliseum which would be a huge tax driver to North Carolina is a live sportsbook.”

NCSharp has projected that North Carolina sports betting in its first full year could generate over $120 million in tax revenue for the state. While that revenue will come predominantly from online wagering, a retail sportsbook at a venue like the Greensboro Coliseum could provide a boost.

Tax revenue is certainly the biggest plus for a community. But Beard explained that housing a retail sportsbook would also enhance the fan experience.

“With a live sportsbook, it adds another layer of excitement to people attending these sports events.”

And plenty of people travel to the area for sports each year.

Beard said that sports tourism was a “significant player” in Greensboro’s recovery from the COVID-19 shutdown a few years prior.

According to him, 372 youth and amateur sporting events took place in the city from August 2020 to July 2023. As a result, customers booked 950,000 hotel room nights during that span.

Questions remain around college sports betting in NC

While North Carolina has permitted wagering on collegiate sports, including in-state colleges, leaving college venues off the list of approved partners for sportsbooks seems a calculated choice.

In the last year, The NCAA has lobbied heavily against collegiate betting – particularly player prop betting–to avoid a range of risks to players and students. Four North Carolina universities will host EPIC Risk Management in 2024, a company that does seminars on responsible gaming. The state will also remain under the microscope of responsible gambling advocates, like East Carolina University’s Dr. Michele Malkin.

Excluding college arenas and stadiums from the list of approved partners for online and retail sportsbooks is very likely a way to avoid further conflict.

Greensboro tourism will benefit from sports betting MEGA Fund

Even though it will not have a retail sportsbook, Greensboro Coliseum can benefit from sports betting grant money, created by House Bill 347, which legalized online sports betting.

Specifically, HB 347 created the Major Events, Games and Attractions (MEGA) Fund that provides grants of up to $25,000.

The bill states that funding will help “attract State, regional, area, and national sporting events, tournaments, and programs for nonprofessional sporting participants in programs administered by city, county, and local school administrative units, or appropriate nonprofit organizations.”

In short, funding from sports betting will boost activities in the state that generate sports and entertainment tourism.

Events could range from the Democratic or Republican National Convention to future Super Bowls. As long as the event is “held not more often than annually.”

Beard explained that HB 347 did not include Greensboro in the running for MEGA Fund grants. This was eventually corrected in the state budget, though.

“Access to apply for grants for future events will be helpful in competing for major events,” said Beard, “and will continue our excellent track record with events with the ACC, NCAA, US Figure Skating, USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming, AAU, Professional Bull Riding and many, many other national governing bodies.”

With the caliber of sports funneling through Greensboro, the city represents a challenge for the state’s sports betting industry.

On one hand, the teams and players that come through Greensboro Coliseum represent a sporting demographic–collegiate, amateur and youth athletes–that should be protected from gambling-related harassment.

However, the Coliseum, featuring top-flight collegiate sporting events, will generate tremendous sports betting revenue for the state. For that, it will remain, whether the law includes it or not, squarely in the conversation around North Carolina’s sports and sports betting future.

NCSharp Managing Editor Tyler Andrews contributed to this report


Image Credit: Gerry Broome / AP Images

About the Author

Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley's byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working as an editor and reporter for the Daily Iowan’s sports department.