RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – State officials overseeing the implementation of mobile sports betting in North Carolina said Tuesday they will not be ready to launch on Jan. 8, which is the earliest date allowed under state law.
They did not indicate when they expect betting to begin but say they are still on track to allow wagering by June 15, which is the deadline.
The North Carolina Lottery Commission is still in the process of approving various rules and regulations which are subject to public review and comment. Sports betting operators are not yet able to apply for licenses.
A committee overseeing this process met Tuesday but did not give a clear indication of whether they expect wagering to begin any sooner than mid-June.
“Really do hate to miss the college football games. That really was the intent. But, I really do understand when you move at the speed of government, even at the lottery,” said Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), who was one of the leading advocates for legalizing mobile sports betting in the General Assembly. “Unfortunately, we won’t be able to bet legally on those games. Though, I’m sure that’s still going to happen. There are plenty of bets that are gonna be placed right here out of North Carolina until that goes live where they can actually do it legally.”
Once it becomes fully operational, people will be able to place bets on professional, collegiate, amateur and electronic sports.
On Tuesday, the committee approved a long list of sports that would qualify and discussed a petition process that would allow more events to be added.
The lottery commission has not yet begun taking applications from betting operators. The public can still view and weigh in on proposed rules.
The rules cover a wide variety of aspects tied to implementation of sports betting, including advertising to the public and protections for consumers.
A provision in the state budget, which was enacted last month, requires betting operators to partner with professional leagues
“They’re at the beginning. There’s a lot still to be done,” said Tyler Andrews, managing editor of NCSharp.com, which covers the sports betting industry.
He noted North Carolina does not appear to be moving as quickly with implementation as other states that already had more legalized gambling options in place, such as Massachusetts and Ohio.
“I doubt that they can get it done by March Madness even. I think they’re looking at closer to the NBA playoffs, the NHL playoffs as a reasonable start date unless they really pick it up,” he said. “You don’t want somebody putting together a hasty playbook of rules and regulations just so that they can get in under some sort of deadline like, let’s launch before the Super Bowl so that we can rake in all that revenue.”
Based on what’s occurred in other states that recently allowed mobile sports betting, he said he anticipates people will wager between $6 billion and $7 billion the first year it’s legal in North Carolina, generating about $126 million in revenue. A nonpartisan estimate by staff at the state legislature put that figure closer to $65 million.
As this rolls out in 2024, state lawmakers will still be discussing legalizing additional gambling options.
This year’s legislative session ended with no resolution to a proposal to allow four more casinos in the state as well as video lottery terminals.
Rep. Saine said while he believes there is momentum behind that push, he does not think it’s inevitable that a bill will pass during next year’s so-called short session in the spring.
“Short session will be a very limited window. So, I’m not sure whether or not we can get that over the hump during short session,” he said. “We’ll know more about how much money we’re losing in North Carolina to Virginia. And, I think that will make some legislators stop and think for a little bit.”