North Carolina Plans To Regulate Sports Betting Differently Than Most States

The North Carolina House of Representatives recently passed a bill to allow online sports betting. Currently, legal bets only can be placed in person at three tribal casinos in the state.

Since the state Senate passed a similar bill in 2021, and Gov. Roy Cooper has said he would sign such legislation into law, there is much anticipation in the state for legal North Carolina sports betting before the 2024 Super Bowl.

One possible reason for delay would be if state Senators disagree with the House’s plan to have the North Carolina State Lottery Commission regulate the new gambling.

Lottery would regulate the industry

There are other states that choose the lottery as chief overseer, including New Hampshire, Oregon, Montana, Connecticut and Rhode Island. But in those states, the lottery either operates as a sports betting monopoly with a lone partner (such as with DraftKings in New Hampshire), or with only a very few operators.

North Carolina’s bill would mandate 10 to 12 sportsbook operators. Fortunately, a neighboring state can provide a blueprint for North Carolina regulators.

In Virginia, the lottery oversees sports betting, and also allows for about a dozen sportsbook operators. That may alleviate concerns in the state Senate about taking the road less traveled when it comes to regulation.

Virginia has approved multiple casinos that are expected to stage grand openings next year. North Carolina doesn’t have commercial locations, but does offer three tribal casinos.

The push for mobile sports betting in North Carolina has come in part because two of the tribal casinos are located in the remote, far western portion of the state. The Catawba Two Kings casino, which opened its sportsbook last fall, is not quite as remote – but still not within reasonable driving distance for most North Carolinians.

Some states create gaming commissions

The lottery is not involved in the majority of states with legal sports betting. Instead, commissions and boards are formed, or state casino regulators add sports betting oversight to their existing menus.

These agencies have varying names, including the Arizona Department of Gaming, the Illinois Gaming Board, the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, the Michigan Gaming Control Board, and so on.

The commissions and boards tend to offer plenty of competition in those states – the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, for instance, allows for up to 36 sportsbooks.

North Carolina, with 10 to 12 sportsbooks, would be giving consumers a sufficient amount of choice. This would also include offering a plethora of enticing NC sports betting promotions and new-player bonuses as operators compete to capture the interest of local bettors. The State Lottery Commission would have to choose the 12 most qualified applicants if there are more than a dozen throwing their hats in the ring.

Other North Carolina sports betting details

The initial sports betting licensing application fee would be $1 million, with a renewal fee for the same amount due every five years.

In an interesting twist, online bettors will be able to bet anywhere in the state except on tribal lands. In the latter case, geolocation technology would block the bet, so the consumer would have to head to a kiosk or window at the casino to place a wager.

Sports fans will be able to make bets at professional sports facilities if the state’s teams opt to open in-person sportsbooks there.

Professional sports, college sports, electronic sports competitions, and amateur sports such as the Olympics would be authorized for betting.

The allowance for betting on college sports – which is not universal in the U.S. for in-state universities – is particularly important because of the popularity of the North Carolina and Duke basketball teams.

As for the tax rate, North Carolina’s rate of 14% is around the industry average – though far lower than the 51% charged in New York State.

About the Author

John Brennan

John Brennan has covered the issue of the expansion of legal sports betting since New Jersey voters approved a ballot question backing the idea in 2011. He covered the lawsuit by the NFL and four other sports organizations against the state from 2012-018, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 26-year-old federal law that effectively had given Nevada a monopoly on sports betting. Since then, Brennan has tracked betting legalization efforts in every state, including North Carolina.