RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Officials at the North Carolina Education Lottery said Wednesday they are working to meet the June deadline to launch mobile sports betting, but it’s unclear whether it will begin much sooner than that.
Under a bipartisan bill that Gov. Roy Cooper (D) signed into law earlier this year, betting can begin as early as Jan. 8, 2024. The latest it can start is June 14, 2024.
During a meeting of the North Carolina State Lottery Commission on Wednesday, commissioners noted there are significant steps that still have to be taken in order for betting to begin.
The lottery has hired Sterl Carpenter, who worked on the implementation of sports betting in Massachusetts, to oversee the process in North Carolina.
He told commissioners Wednesday that sports betting will go live before the June deadline but did not indicate whether it could begin earlier in the year.
“We are currently writing all of the rules that will guide us in regulating sports betting and parimutuel wagering for North Carolina,” he said.
The commission approved rulemaking policies Wednesday and is expected to hold additional meetings this fall as the state prepares for sports betting to begin.
Under a change the General Assembly approved in the state budget last week, sports betting operators will be required to partner with a professional team, league or facility in order to be granted a license.
People will be able to place bets online on: professional, collegiate, amateur and electronic sports as well as horse racing. In addition, there will be in-person sports books allowed at professional venues where people can bet using cash.
Tyler Andrews, managing editor of NCSharp.com, which covers the sports betting industry, said given the scope of work involved in adopting various regulations and awarding the licenses to sports betting operators, he thinks it’s unlikely sports betting would be effective in January.
“I think it’s much more likely they’re going to push toward a summer or late-spring launch. So, sorry North Carolinians, you’re probably not going to get to bet on the Super Bowl,” he said.
Andrews said based on how the rollout has gone in other states, up to $7 billion in total bets could be placed in the first year in North Carolina, generating about $126 million in tax revenue. It would put the state in the top five nationally, based on analysis of the rollout of sports betting in other states where it’s recently been legalized.
That amount is more than what non-partisan analysts at the General Assembly projected when they estimated the state would take in about $65 million annually.
“We think North Carolina is going to get off the ground pretty fast and is going to be one of the top states in the country because it’s got such a strong sports betting fan base that covers a variety of sports,” he said. “(Ohio) started strong and it’s because they’ve already got this built-in fan base. And, we think North Carolina is going to start strong too.”
Alexandra Sirota, executive director of the left-leaning NC Budget & Tax Center, said she’s concerned about the expansion of legalized gambling in North Carolina.
“I think we also have to be really thoughtful about the impacts on problem gambling,” she said. “We know enough to know that this was the wrong choice for North Carolina right now. What the full scale of the impact is, remains to be seen.”