While more than a dozen sports betting operators requested applications to enter the North Carolina market, only seven met the recommended deadline of Dec. 27.
Per the NC Lottery, those seven are:
– FanDuel (Betfair Interactive US)
– DraftKings (Crown NC Gaming)
– Fanatics Betting & Gaming (FBG Enterprises North Carolina)
– Bet365 (Hillside)
– Penn Sports Interactive (ESPN Bet NC)
– Underdog Sports Wagering
Caesars Entertainment, which operates the state’s two Harrah’s casinos, applied for a service provider license and could enter the state through one of the two tribal sports betting licenses on offer.
The NC Lottery Commission, regulator of the industry, has yet to announce a launch date, but they have narrowed the launch window. After announcing that the market would not launch before the 2024 Super Bowl on Feb. 11, Gov. Roy Cooper indicated that he’d like to see regulators get North Carolina online sports betting up and running by March Madness.
High bar may have kept some operators out
The added requirement for an online sportsbook to form a written designation agreement with a North Carolina pro sports entity may have stopped some smaller books from meeting the recommended deadline.
This requirement was not included in the original online sports betting law but was added later when the state passed its budget bill. The intent is to ensure that pro sports entities in the state benefit from the legalization of online sports betting. There are currently 11 total entities, including five pro sports teams, two PGA golf courses, two NASCAR tracks, the PGA and NASCAR.
As of now, only four of the seven operators have announced their sports betting partnerships. Those are:
– Bet365 (partnering with the Charlotte Hornets).
– ESPN Bet (partnering with Quail Hollow Club).
– Fanatics (partnering with the Carolina Hurricanes).
– FanDuel (partnering with the PGA).
This list will likely be updated as more operators complete their applications and form the necessary sports betting partnerships; however, like in other states, those late arrivals may not receive priority treatment in being vetted and approved in time for the earliest go-live date.
No launch date set but upcoming meeting could change that
While no official launch date has been targeted, now that the NCLC has received a final list of operators meeting the recommended deadline, a launch date could come at either the Jan. 4 NCLC Sports Betting Committee meeting or the Jan. 10 full NCLC meeting.
As Cooper has indicated, a March Madness launch is the next desirable launch date. The first day of round one action is Thursday, March 21, 2024, which would be the best-case scenario for a launch.
If the NCLC wants to make sure the market is ready for March Madness, they may set a launch date of March 19, 2024, to make sure operators have a little time to check for any bugs before the influx of March Madness bets floods in.