North Carolina online sports betting will go live on March 11, 2024, finally giving the college basketball-crazy state some great news.
After months of waiting for North Carolina sports betting regulators to set a launch date, the countdown is finally on.
What’s more, it comes in time for the most exciting two weeks of sports (and sports betting) of the year: March Madness.
Not launching online sports betting on Jan. 8, the first day the law would have allowed, will cost North Carolina $21 million in tax revenue, NCSharp projects. However, by launching well before the final allowable date of June 14, regulators are salvaging $25-$30 million more of potentially lost revenue.
Both regulators and operators still have a lot of work to do before North Carolina online sports betting goes live. Here’s a look at what’s still to come before Tar Heel bettors place their first legal online bets.
NC loses out on football betting but recuperates with March Madness
State law allowed for North Carolina to launch online sports betting as early as Jan. 8, in time for the NCAA Football National Championship Game and the NFL Playoffs.
While that date quickly appeared out of reach, the 2024 Super Bowl on Feb. 11 became the next most desirable launch date. However, regulators ruled out that date in November, leaving March Madness 2024 as the second check-down option for NC online sportsbooks.
Getting the market off the ground in time for the men’s March Madness tournament means the state still capitalizes on one of the biggest sports betting events in the country. It figures to be even more of a boon here, as Duke and North Carolina are sitting in their usual seats this winter among the sport’s elite.
It further means the state can still recuperate some of the tax revenue it left on the table by not launching on Jan. 8 or before Feb. 11.
North Carolina tax revenue left on the table and what remains
To put it in perspective, let’s take sports betting figures from the first three months of 2023 for two comparable states: Ohio (pop. 11.8 million) and Virginia (pop. 8.7 million).
Last January, Ohio launched online sports betting, while Virginia has had legal online sports betting since January 2021. At launch, the Buckeye State taxed sports betting revenue at 10% (it doubled its tax rate in July). Virginia taxes sports betting revenue at 15%. North Carolina will tax sports betting revenue at 18%.
In January and February – which North Carolina will miss in 2024 – Ohio generated $28 million in tax revenue, and Virginia raised $11 million. For Ohio, a phenomenal launch month significantly boosted revenue totals.
In March, Ohio earned $9.2 million in taxes, while Virginia earned $7.4 million.
NCSharp estimates North Carolina (pop. 10.8 million) could have generated roughly $21 million in tax revenue in January and February 2024. Like Ohio, the Tar Heel State would likely have ridden the hype of launch and the excitement of college and pro football postseason play to very high revenue totals.
Despite missing out on that sports betting windfall, North Carolina could recover $7-$10 million in tax revenue for March by launching online sports betting before March Madness and letting the state’s broad college basketball fanbase do the work.
Potential NC sports betting tax revenue figures through mid-June
Launching by March Madness also puts the state three months ahead of its launch deadline of June 14, 2024.
Again, Ohio and Virginia provide comparisons.
Those states generated $15.1 million and $14 million in tax revenue, respectively, for April, May and the first half of June. Ohio actually saw a downturn in sports betting revenue in the spring as promotional offers dried up and launch fervor died down. Virginia held steady.
While not much happens on the sports betting calendar until the NBA and NHL Finals in June, North Carolina could make $17-$18 million in tax revenue in April, May and the first half of June.
All considered, a March Madness launch, while missing out on substantial postseason football betting, could still bring in $25-$30 million more in tax revenue than waiting until the June 14 deadline.
Vetting operators, background checks and internal controls
The NC Lottery Commission, the industry’s regulator, has given themselves 60 days from when a sportsbook submits its application to vet it. The NCLC received seven completed applications by the recommended deadline, four short of the 11 total licenses available in the state.
Processing these applications includes looking over more than 1,000 pages of documents and running background checks on the necessary individuals.
Once an operator is successfully vetted and receives the approval to launch, it must still submit its internal controls to the NCLC. This involves showing sports betting regulators how the sportsbook will comply with the state’s gaming regulations. It includes issues like how the book will report on its activities, how it will handle sensitive financial information and what it will do to prevent fraud.
Once a sportsbook’s internal controls have been approved, it will receive a final checklist to complete to receive a Certificate of Compliance. Only with that certificate in hand will a book get the green light to launch on March 11.
Expect NC sportsbook promos to arrive soon
Tar Heel bettors can also begin checking out NC sports betting promos and pre-launch offers beginning on March 1. That is the day the NCLC set for pre-launch registration to begin.
With as many as seven commercial online sportsbooks to choose from at launch, North Carolinians will have a lot of bonus offers to sample. Along with learning what each online sportsbook offers, NCSharp recommends all bettors read through the responsible gambling material on any sportsbook they choose to use.
We’ve ranked the top sportsbooks for quality responsible gambling content, and we’d like RG content to be required reading for all bettors diving into the NC online sports betting market.
NCSharp preliminarily projected that the state could generate between $6-$7 billion in total bets in its first full year. We made that projection using data from the first half of 2023. With 2023 in the books and the final revenue reports from legal gaming states rolling in, NCSharp will release a revised projection for North Carolina’s total year-one bet spending soon.