Sports Teams Dream Big, Experts Offer Caution As NC Sports Betting Expands

Pro sports teams, real and expansion hopefuls, the horse racing community, academics, tribes and excited sports bettors have all weighed in on North Carolina’s legalization of online sports betting.

A swelling excitement mixed with a desire to “get it right” characterizes the early reactions of North Carolina sports wagering stakeholders.

With a launch window from Jan. 8, 2024, to June 14, 2024, the North Carolina State Lottery Commission, the regulator of the state’s new industry, now carries the burden of ensuring that online sports betting is handled as responsibly as possible.

Gov. Roy Cooper set the tone for the state’s run-up to launch in his post-bill signing Q&A with reporters.

“[The Commission has] 12 months to do it,” Cooper said. “I think it’s important they get it done right. This is a new venture for the state of North Carolina. We have to make sure the licenses are issued properly, and that safeguards are set up and that regulations are put in place. But I think everyone wants to see it by the first of the year if at all possible, but they’re working on it right now and are already hard at work.”

Teams envision expanded entertainment with stadium sportsbooks

While online sports betting through mobile providers such as DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars NC, BetMGM and Bet365 will bring in the lion’s share of the revenue to the state, North Carolina’s pro sports teams see high entertainment value in the retail sports betting venues near their stadiums that are allowed in the new law.

The Carolina Hurricanes released the following statement regarding upgrades to PNC Arena in Raleigh:

“We are extremely grateful for all of the hard work by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to get this bill to the finish line,” said Don Waddell, president and general manager of the Hurricanes. “We will now have the opportunity to build a world-class sports-wagering facility to expand the entertainment options around PNC Arena. Our plans will also include a restaurant and bar available to fans every day, helping to spur additional development in and around the arena district.”

Tom Dundon, the Hurricanes owner, has plans to develop the land around PNC Arena, which turns 25 years old next year, as part of a larger expansion beyond sports betting. These plans have been in the works for over a year, since the last legislative session when the state came up one vote shy of passing a similar bill.

While Dundon’s grand plans may be a few years off, Hurricanes fans can expect an upgraded gameday experience, including retail betting near the arena in the next two NHL seasons.

David Tepper, owner of the Carolina Panthers, furthered Dundon’s remarks on the entertainment opportunities for fans.

“We appreciate the tireless efforts of members of the NC House and Senate and are grateful for their support,” a statement from Tepper Sports and Entertainment said. “This will offer a great entertainment option for fans.”

The NC Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League endorsed legal sports betting on the team’s Twitter page. The team plays its games at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, which will be eligible for a retail sportsbook.

Can sports betting boost Raleigh’s MLB expansion desires?

In the expansion effort to bring pro baseball to Raleigh, MLB Raleigh wrote a lengthy Twitter thread under the heading: “How the NC sports betting bill helps Raleigh’s MLB bid.”

In it, the group lists the top expansion choices currently on the table and highlights that Raleigh, with the presence of online sports betting and the potential for a retail sportsbook at a new MLB stadium, would be the best option.

“We’re sitting in MLB’s largest east coast dead zone w/ stadium-zoned land near DT,” the thread concludes. “Our pop + media market is in-line & growing fast, & now our state offers MLB an avenue to max revenue with HB 347. Right now, no MLB expansion competitor can say all of that.”

While legal online sports betting in North Carolina may not be the deciding factor in bringing Major League Baseball to North Carolina, legal gambling will certainly bolster Raleigh’s chances of landing the MLB’s newest franchise.

Catawba Two Kings touts app, appeals for sustained job creation at tribal venues

The Catawba Tribe, which operates the Catawba Two Kings Casino in Kings Mountain, offered its cautiously-optimistic support of online sports betting.

In a statement to WCNC-TV in Charlotte, the tribe said, “We are hopeful the state’s initiative would create new jobs and economic activity for North Carolinians while preserving the jobs of our current and future casino employees and also protecting our capital investment in the casino.”

The casino, whose expansion plans have run into legal challenges, appears to be getting back on track with its permanent casino project.

Visitors can already bet on sports at the tribe’s retail sportsbook, and the tribe pledges that, with the new law, “we plan to participate by offering our patrons and residents statewide with a convenient and easy-to-use Catawba Two Kings Casino mobile app and online platform for sports betting.”

Academics tread cautiously on new legal ground

Dr. Michelle Malkin of East Carolina University in Greenville is a leading problem gambling researcher and proponent of well-regulated, legal gaming. In response to Cooper signing of House Bill 347 into law, she tweeted:

“Today the Gov of #NC will sign into law widespread access to #SportsBetting. As a #gambling researcher & educator in NC, I look forward to being on the forefront of working to limit gambling-related harms. Our goal is that NC will be a leader in research, education, & resources!”

In her May interview with NCSharp, Malkin expanded on the need for research, education and resources in a North Carolina sports betting market.

“If we legalize,” Malkin said, “first, we should put funds into education of the population. Then we need to set aside resources for people suffering from problem gambling, and, third, we need to devote money towards research: baseline studies of people engaging in problem gambling and an awareness of what people need for recovery.”

Dr. Sean McKeever, professor of philosophy at Davidson College, identified the “ethical challenges” facing the state in the wake of a legal market.

In a Davidson College news report, McKeever differentiated sports betting from other forms of gambling, explaining, “What strikes me as potentially distinctive about sports gambling is that sports (unlike most other forms of gambling) have a real value outside of gambling. No one would play poker or take guesses at the roulette wheel unless doing so was a way of resolving a bet.”

As such, McKeever sees sports betting as a potential threat “to an otherwise valuable human activity” and raises the question of the threshold for corruption imposed by such a threat.

“If Davidson plays an A10 tournament game, nothing is tainted merely because someone out in Nevada puts a bet on it. However, history teaches that the money behind gambling has interests of its own and that can lead to corruption like the infamous 1919 ‘Black Sox’ scandal. The question to ask, and I am agnostic about the answer, is how much risk of corruption does gambling create?”

Fans want to know when they can lay their money down

With the signing into law of HB 347, the question on most residents’ minds is, “When can I place my first bet?”

Fans hoping to place their first bet on the Carolina Panthers in week one of this NFL season or before the ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway this October will have to temper their enthusiasm.

The launch window opens Jan. 8, 2024, and the state has until June 14, 2024 – one year from the date Cooper signed the bill into law – to get up to 12 online operators up and running.

Since North Carolina has next to no legal gambling framework on which to build, the North Carolina Lottery Commission has a tortuous road ahead of it in getting the country’s ninth most-populous state into the online sports betting world. In the meantime, get a jumpstart on the action as we gear up for the eagerly awaited online sportsbook launches. Discover the best NC online sports betting offers, promos, and welcoming bonuses that are set to hit the market.

About the Author

Tyler Andrews

Tyler is the Managing Editor for, covering sports, sports law, and gambling for the Tar Heel State. He has also covered similar topics for PlayTexas, PlayGeorgia, PlayCA, PlayFlorida, PlayOhio, and PlayMA. Tyler’s current focus is North Carolina’s pathway to gaming legalization.