North Carolina online sports betting is on the horizon, as the state has from now until June to officially launch.
From legalization last year, the entire timeline will have taken anywhere from nine months to a year, depending on when things officially kick off.
Right now, North Carolina is using an expedited rulemaking process, according to North Carolina Education Lottery Director of Corporate Communications Van Denton.
“The Commission adopted its main rules for sports betting on an expedited basis, including accelerated public comment periods that allow stakeholders to provide timely feedback,” Denton told NCSharp in an email. “Additional rules will be proposed and adopted as needed.”
How does the launch timeline for online sports betting in North Carolina stack up compared to other states? Here’s a closer look.
North Carolina sports betting timeline
North Carolina legalized online sports betting on June 14, 2023. Gov. Roy Cooper signed House Bill 347, which created a launch window from Jan. 8 to June 14, 2024.
Shortly before the calendar rolled over to 2024, Cooper went on a podcast and shared that the goal is for North Carolina to launch its sports betting by March Madness. This year’s NCAA Tournament begins on March 19.
Should Cooper’s goal prove true, North Carolina is looking at roughly a nine-month period from legalization to launch. Of course, that timeframe could expand to a year, since the deadline to launch is in June.
How North Carolina’s sports betting timeline compares to other states
Compared to some, North Carolina’s timeframe from legalization to launch is longer. But that doesn’t mean it’s not taking the right approach. The state is calculated with its decisions, and this is a good approach for its residents. NC regulators want to get this right the first time.
A look at some of the states near North Carolina can give a clearer picture of how North Carolina’s launch timeframe is in line with other comparable states.
Virginia’s population (8.6 million) is roughly two million less than the Tar Heel State’s 10.8 million people.
The state had no previous history of legal gambling outside of a state lottery when it legalized sports betting. As well, like North Carolina, the state lottery regulates Virginia’s sports betting industry.
Virginia took eight months from legalization (April 2020) to launch its online sports betting market in January of 2021.
Ohio (pop. 11.8 million) has just about one million more people than North Carolina and a similar sports landscape. Where North Carolina has more high-profile D1 collegiate sports teams, Ohio has more high-profile pro teams.
Unlike North Carolina, Ohio had a history of legal gambling in the state, through casinos and racinos, when it legalized sports betting. The state also has an established casino control commission as well as a state lottery, which act as regulators of the gaming industry.
Ohio launched sports betting in January 2023, after legalizing it in December 2021.
It was essentially a year from legalization to launch.
Michigan is close in population (10 million) to North Carolina. It boasts a strong pro sports industry but does not have the robust collegiate athletic landscape of the Tar Heel State.
Like Ohio, Michigan legalized sports betting on top of an already established casino gaming industry. Similar to Ohio, Michigan has a gaming control board that regulates both casino and sports betting.
Michigan legalized online sports betting in Dec. 2019 and then launched online sports betting in January 2021.
From legalization to launch took one year.
Some states have taken an even quicker approach.
Colorado spent just six months between legalizing online sports betting in November of 2019 and launching in May of 2020. The state has a smaller population than North Carolina, with 5.8 million residents. It also has an established casino industry and a gaming control commission to regulate sports betting.
Arizona had a tight turnaround as well, even with a population of 7.2 million. The state legalized online sports betting in April of 2021 and then launched it just five months later in September of that year.
The state has a robust tribal casino industry but no commercial casinos.
A state gaming commission regulates the industry.
The point is there is no clear-cut blueprint, no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to launching online sports betting. Each state is different and should take the approach it deems best suited to its residents and its existing legal gaming framework.
How North Carolina’s approach is different
North Carolina was very particular with its approach. Not to say that other states weren’t, but looking at Ohio and Massachusetts, their regulatory bodies dropped everything when sports betting was legalized.
Ohio published its first regulations less than a month after its governor signed off on its sports wagering bill. Massachusetts essentially held daily public meetings surrounding regulations, which started the day after its bill was signed.
North Carolina didn’t take this approach because, unlike Ohio and Massachusetts, it didn’t have an established gaming commission.
The NC Lottery Commission, which regulates the industry and doesn’t have a background in legal gambling regulation, made sure to hire the correct individuals before proceeding. This included tapping long-time Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner Sterl Carpenter to take the role of deputy director of sports betting for the NCLC.
Additionally, North Carolina revised its sports betting law just two months after it was passed. The revision made it so that for an operator to secure a license, it would need to partner with a pro sports entity to pursue a sports betting license. That was not originally the case, and it was a major change for operators looking to secure market access.
Where we currently stand, a launch by March Madness seems likely and has the support of the governor. This would see North Carolina go from legalization to launch in nine months, which is on par with most other comparable states.