NC’s Approach To Sports Betting Licensing ‘Natural Extension’ Of Industry

To get an online sports betting license in North Carolina, operators needed to form specific partnerships.

Unlike in other states, though, those partnerships didn’t include brick-and-mortar casinos. Operators needed to partner with the state’s pro teams and similar entities and venues to secure their corner of the market — something that’s not all that common.

NCSharp connected with Mike Trainor, a partner with Blank Rome LLP. Trainor specializes in representing clients in today’s gaming industry, as well as handling investigations and regulatory proceedings. Trainor boasts a wealth of knowledge, specifically regarding the online gaming sphere and sports betting.

Here’s a look at what Trainor thinks of the North Carolina sports betting rules, and why he believes “time will tell” about its success.

 ‘Time will tell’ if NC’s sports betting license approach is a success

Trainor explained that the concept of states requiring sports betting licenses to be tethered to existing industry participants “is certainly not new.”

What is a big difference, though, is the approach North Carolina took.

“Tethering a license to a sports team is unique,” he said.

When North Carolina handed out its online sports betting licenses, those looking for a slice of the pie had to form a partnership with one of the state’s professional sports entities. The original online sports betting law didn’t require this, but the state budget bill amended the law to bring the state’s pro sports entities into the picture.

North Carolina dished out 11 online licenses. Five were tied to partnerships with the state’s pro teams: the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, Carolina Hurricanes, Charlotte FC and NC Courage. Two licenses were tied to North Carolina auto racing tracks (Charlotte Motor Speedway and North Wilkesboro Speedway). Two more were tied to Quail Hollow and Sedgefield (two PGA golf courses). The PGA itself and NASCAR, got online licenses when all was said and done.

Some people in the state’s sports industry have voiced their displeasure with North Carolina’s rules. For instance, the Greensboro Coliseum, which hosted ACC Tournaments and a number of Olympic sporting events, did not receive a license, despite having more than 1.2 million patrons come through its doors.

Of course, changes can always be made down the line. But will the current approach work in the long run?

“Time will tell,” Trainor told NCSharp.

NC’s approach to sports betting a ‘natural extension’ to industry’s evolution

Trainor says other ways of handing out online sports betting licenses are effective, too.

“In several states, the opportunity to obtain a sports license is often tethered to a relationship with a brick-and-mortar casino, and such relationships have been beneficial in several instances,” he explained. “Legacy brick-and-mortar casinos are experienced in the gaming space, but that certainly does not mean that teams, leagues and venues cannot be a valuable partner in the industry.”

As more and more states legalize sports betting and some further expand their existing markets, entities such as pro sports teams want a piece of the pie. And rightfully so, as it’s a great revenue and branding opportunity.

It’s hard for teams not to hop on this trend, especially given that the NFL announced just three years ago that Caesars, DraftKings and FanDuel are the league’s official sports betting partners.

Teams view these partnerships as not just a lucrative business venture, but also another way to engage fans as sports betting skyrockets in popularity.

It’s impossible to rule out other states following North Carolina’s mode of operating its industry, especially as the industry evolves.

“Teams, leagues and venues are certainly stakeholders who have already committed significant resources to the industry,” Trainor said. “The approach that is being taken seems to be a natural extension of the growing impact that those stakeholders will have on the industry.”

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.