Could North Carolina Be The Next State To Launch Online Sports Betting?

Is North Carolina on pace to be the next state to legalize online sports betting?

Kentucky’s launch last month marked the 25th state to offer legal online sports betting. And now, all eyes are on which state could launch online next.

Enter North Carolina, which has been flirting with the notion for some time.

How long did Kentucky’s sports betting launch take?

Prior to launching, Kentucky residents had to sit and watch as many surrounding states legalized their own respective sports betting markets.

Kentucky had a quick turnaround compared to most states. Gov. Andy Beshear signed sports betting into law (House Bill 551) on March 31. A few months later in July, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved emergency sports betting regulations. It was at that time when the commission announced that retail sports betting would officially launch on Sept. 7 and online wagering on Sept. 28.

So from Kentucky’s governor signing the bill to the first retail sports betting, it was about five months.

Kentucky law also made sure it wasn’t a free-for-all with operators. Horse racing venues were the only locations allowed to partner with sportsbook operators. Those locations are allowed to partner with up to three different brands, which means the Bluegrass State could have a maximum of 27 sportsbooks for customers.

When could North Carolina launch its online sports betting market?

As of now, the earliest North Carolina online sports betting could technically launch would be Jan. 8, 2024. That’s about a three-month turnaround.

The latest North Carolina could launch within this window would be June 14, 2024, according to House Bill 347, which Gov. Roy Cooper signed earlier this summer.

In other words, North Carolina has a six-month span to work with here where it could launch.

Anything can happen, but expecting a Jan. 8 launch (at this point) seems a bit out of reach. The state made some significant strides last month, including the creation of a sports betting committee.

Earlier in September, we got more clarity on how many operators would be allowed in the state, as changes were made to the law requiring them to secure a written agreement from a sports team, venue or sports governing body.

Keep in mind that the Super Bowl – arguably the biggest betting attraction in the gambling industry – is in February. North Carolina residents will not be able to wager on the NFL’s regular season, something that Kentucky factored into its launch date. Football is king when it comes to betting.

North Carolina won’t rush its online sports betting launch, nor should it. But you can assume officials have the biggest football game of the year in mind. It’s a matter of making sure everything is correctly in place before, and that could still take some time.

But as of now, don’t expect North Carolina to launch online sports wagering in the first month of the year.

What other states are next up?

North Carolina isn’t the only state eyeing some form of a sports betting launch within the following year.

Maine, Nebraska and Vermont are three other states with similar ambitions. 

Nebraska’s online sports betting progress stagnates

Nebraska only offers retail sports betting at this time. The first retail sportsbook opened in June, but since then, there hasn’t been much traction on launching an online sector.

Maine’s push for online sports betting gains traction

Maine could technically launch its online sports betting industry this year in November. Officials seem poised to hand out temporary licenses and allow wagering then. While Maine Gambling Control Unit Executive Director Milton Champion had noted that early 2024 was a more reasonable timeline to start taking wagers, Maine regulators have picked up the pace. The outlook now has Maine launching somewhere between Nov. 5 and Nov. 15.

The state’s attorney general’s office is going through a final review of applicants. 

“Once they’ve approved it, then I will forward it to the Secretary of State’s office,” said Champion to Maine Public. “They typically take three to five business days and then once [the Secretary of State’s office] posts the adopted rules on their website, then then we go live.”

Vermont is ahead of the curve

Vermont is in a similar boat to Maine in that it could launch by early 2024, too. In July, it appeared as though online sports betting could be up and running before 2023 ends, which very well could still be the case. Sportsbooks BetMGM, DraftKings, Fanatics, FanDuel and Penn Sports Interactive submitted online sports betting applications last month. Compared to Nebraska and Maine, Vermont appears ahead of the curve when it comes to launching next.

Will North Carolina be the next state to launch online sports betting?

The state certainly won’t want to miss out on Super Bowl betting in NC, but neither will these other states. Considering Vermont has already taken applications and has eyed a late 2023 launch and Maine is in the final stages barring hangups, it might end up being the next to launch online sports betting. 

Take a look at Kentucky’s ambitious launch time frame. The state awarded sports betting licenses to the horse tracks on Aug. 22. Retail sports betting kicked off just a couple of weeks later, with online following about a month later.

Let’s be clear: Vermont hasn’t accepted these licenses yet. It’s inevitable, but so far, the operators have just submitted their applications. Kentucky moved quickly, and it’s not unreasonable to think Vermont would as well. Given that there are about three full months left until the calendar turns, Vermont could certainly get its online sports betting market up first.

North Carolina could be looking at at least a March-April launch, based off the timeline of how other states launched their respective online markets. And Vermont appears to be ahead there.

Regardless of when the Tar Heel State launches sports betting, NCSharp expects big returns. Our preliminary projection sees North Carolina generating between $6-$7 billion in total bets in its first full year of operation.

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.