North Carolina launches statewide sports wagering

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Mobile and online sports wagering across North Carolina took off on Monday, as several licensed gambling operators started taking bets nine months after legislation to authorize such activity statewide became law.

Some of the interactive sports wagering operators, which include big names in the growing field of legalized gambling, and their affiliates held special events to highlight the new gambling options in the nation's ninth-largest state. North Carolina is now the 30th state, along with the District of Columbia, to offer mobile sports betting, according to the American Gaming Association.

Registered customers within the state’s borders can bet on professional, college or Olympic-style sports.

"North Carolina is a state that we’ve been really dying to get into for a couple of years now," DraftKings Chief Commercial Officer Jeremy Elbaum said at a public event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, where retired Carolina Panthers player Greg Olsen placed a ceremonial first online bet. “The way the sports calendar works here, the love for college, the love for NASCAR specifically and obviously the other major sports, has made this a key state for us."

The North Carolina State Lottery Commission, directed in the June 2023 law authorizing the games to license operators and set rules, announced several weeks ago that wagering on mobile devices and computers would begin at noon Monday. The start date — on the eve of the popular Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament — was not lost on sports enthusiasts.

Gov. Roy Cooper, who signed the sports betting bill approved by the General Assembly into law and an ardent fan of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, said he placed a bet on the team to win the Stanley Cup later this year. He said any monetary winnings would go to the team’s charitable foundation.

“The legalization of sports betting will provide a significant boost to North Carolina’s economy and will allow our thriving sports industry to continue to grow,” Cooper said while releasing a video, pre-filmed before the noon start, of him walking onto the ice at the team’s PNC Arena in Raleigh.

The commission announced the eight initial licensees on Feb. 29. The day after, these operators began setting up accounts for players age 21 and over and receiving monetary deposits. That's prompted an array of television and social media advertising by gambling operators trying to attract customers with financial incentives.

In addition to DraftKings, the initial sport wagering licenses went to BETMGM and Underdog Sports Wagering; companies doing business as FanDuel Sportsbook, Fanatics Sportsbook, bet365 and ESPN BET; and an entity associated with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which with Caesars Sportsbook already operates in-person sports gambling at the tribe's two western North Carolina casinos and now offers mobile wagering. All eight operators were running Monday, the lottery commission said.

A late adjustment to the 2023 law said that most interactive wagering company applicants had to enter an agreement with an in-state professional team, or certain pro golf or automobile racing venues or governing bodies, to obtain a license. For example, DraftKings has an agreement with NASCAR, while Fanatics Sportsbook is associated with the Hurricanes.

The law also authorizes in-person betting at future sportsbooks that would have to be located at or near certain large sports or automobile racing venues. The commission has said those will open on a case-by-case basis as operators meet requirements. Provisions in the law for the commission to regulate statewide betting on horse races and to set rules for live horse racing also will be implemented in the future.

The legislation will tax sports wagering at a rate equal to 18% of gross betting revenue minus distributed winnings. The revenues could exceed $100 million annually within five years, according to a legislative branch analysis.

The government's share will go in part to athletic departments at 13 University of North Carolina system schools, amateur and youth sporting events and gambling addiction education and treatment programs. Some licensees have talked up the “responsible gaming” features on their betting apps.


Robertson reported from Raleigh, North Carolina.