Place a bet on the Carolina Panthers in North Carolina next year, and there’s a chance it could lead to a Super Bowl at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium in 2030. That was legislators’ intent when they crafted the Tar Heel State’s new sports betting law.
Legal online sports betting in North Carolina will allow state officials to give funds to event organizers to attract political, sporting and musical events in the future. With House Bill 347’s passage, a newly-formed North Carolina Major Events, Games and Attractions Fund (MEGA Fund) annually would receive 30% of all remaining tax revenue from sports wagering after distribution to four other legislative priorities.
Reasons for the MEGA Fund
The Department of Commerce will manage the MEGA Fund. “In order to foster job creation and investment in the economy of this State, the Department may enter into multi-party agreements with site selection organizations and local entities to provide grants,” according to the statute.
By the fifth year of sports gambling in the state, the new law estimates that $27 million would be set aside annually for the fund.
How grants will be doled out and what the selection process might be are not set forth in the legislation. Administrative details of the MEGA Fund “are just being established,” according to Department of Commerce Communications Director David Rhoades.
The law states that the department will work with the governor’s office to create a framework for managing the fund.
What is the definition of major events?
The statute gives some broad strokes on what events fall under the MEGA Fund. According to the law, the fund will help with events that a site selection committee has picked for a location within the state. The event cannot be held more often than annually, and the Department of Commerce must determine that “the economic activity directly or indirectly attributable to the major event is sufficient to justify the use of State funds to attract or retain the event in this state,” according to the statute.
For organizers to receive grant money, major events must be held at arenas and stadiums of the state’s MLS, NWSL, NBA, NFL and NHL teams or sponsored by the PGA, LPGA, USGA or NASCAR. The grants can be used to acquire events and retain them as long as the total benefits outweigh their costs, according to the law.
Major events now and in the future
The state has hosted and will host some of the PGA and LPGA’s major tournaments. Pinehurst No. 2 has been a regular stop for the PGA’s U.S. Open, and the course will host next year’s competition for the 11th time.
The U.S. Open is scheduled to return to Pinehurst in 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047. The course will host the U.S. Women’s Open in 2029. The 2025 PGA Championship will be competed at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte.
Under the definitions put forth by the law, Democratic or Republican national conventions could be secured using MEGA Fund grants. Any NCAA national championship and even the Super Bowl would be competitions that could qualify.
The NFL has already announced the sites of the next three Super Bowls – Allegiant Field in Las Vegas, Caesars Superdome in New Orleans and Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Still, it’s possible that Bank of America Stadium could be a future site after 2027, especially after a potential face-lift. Panthers owner David Tepper is exploring a $1.2 billion overhaul for the 27-year-old facility.
How the fund would work
Presumably, the MEGA Fund could help organizers attract and retain these types of once-a-year sporting events. Grants would be given to city, county or local organizing committees, according to the statute, but there are no details yet on the timing of how they would be paid out.
Every July 1, the fund will be replenished with an amount depending upon how much tax revenue was raised from sports betting for the previous year. The General Assembly could also allocate more money to the fund annually, according to the law.
Similar funds in other states
In Arizona, lawmakers and then Gov. Doug Ducey created a Major Events Fund as part of the 2022 budget. The state provides $7.5 million annually for the fund. Some of the money from it was used to defray costs for hosting this year’s Super Bowl, which was held in Glendale.
Texas operates four separate trust funds to lure events to the state by providing organizing groups up-front money to pay for events. The state recoups the money through hotel, alcohol beverage and sales taxes during the event. The Circuit of the Americas was granted $25 million from Texas’ Major Events Trust Fund to bring Formula One racing back to the US in 2011.