Starting next year, people in North Carolina will legally be able to bet on sports. The governor signed the sports wagering bill into law Wednesday at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte.
The law legalizes betting on horse races and sports in North Carolina, including professional, collegiate and amateur sports, though not youth sports.
“This legislation will help North Carolina compete, make sure taxpayers receive a share, create many good-paying jobs and foster strong economic opportunity,” Gov. Roy Cooper said. “As we move forward, we should work to make sure more of the revenue is used to invest in our public schools, teachers and students.”
"This is truly a bipartisan accomplishment," Cooper said. He spoke at the Charlotte Hornets home court in Uptown Charlotte.
Representatives from North Carolina's professional sports teams and organizations, including the Charlotte Hornets, Carolina Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, Charlotte Football Club, NASCAR and the PGA Tour, joined the governor for the bill signing.
“We think it’s a great day for sports fans across our state. This is a bill that we believe makes sports betting safer, there’ll be oversight, there’ll be regulations, and certainly there’ll be help for those that may have a gambling problem,” said Fred Whitfield, president and vice chairman for the Charlotte Hornets.
Whitfield said the law also makes it easier for teams like his to compete for future big events, like NBA All-Star games.
“Sports betting bills are being signed across the country. We certainly want our state to be on a level playing field with all the other states,” Whitfield said. “We want to be able to offer the same things that other states and other teams that we compete with can offer.”
People will be able to place bets online and at brick-and-mortar sportsbooks that will be allowed near professional sports venues, like PNC Arena in Raleigh and the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. People will have to be 21 or older to bet on sports.
Charlotte Motor Speedway General Manager Greg Walter said the speedway was waiting to see what on-site gambling facilities could be possible under the N.C. State Lottery Commission’s guidelines.
“We’re going to have to wait and see exactly what’s going to be allowed and what’s going to be permitted in terms of on-site sports books, in terms of sports betting,” Walter explained.
In the meantime, Walter said legalized gambling should drive higher engagement, as fans tune in to all portions of a competition they might have bets placed.
“Those kind of things are just fun to do, and it’s not large betting. But, it’s just an engagement piece. And now, there’s portions of an event, a sporting event, whether it be a race, basketball game or football game, that you want to see how that finishes,” Walter said, referencing the existing popularity of NFL Super Bowl and NCAA March Madness office pools and brackets.
Proponents in the legislature said many in North Carolina already bet on sports. Legalizing sports wagering means the state can regulate and tax the industry.
Whitfield and Walter also said legalized gambling should lead to better safeguards and monitoring for the integrity of sporting events. Additionally, both men said the country’s professional leagues already had gambling policies and safeguards in place for players and staff.
“We believe that because of the regulations that will be in place in this state, the oversight, the safeguards that are being placed. We think make everything be safer, and honestly, you know bringing to light things that, in the past, have happened in the dark,” Walter added.
In a statement to Spectrum News 1, a Tepper Sports and Entertainment spokesperson wrote, “We are thankful for the collaborative effort and support of the Governor, North Carolina General Assembly and all those involved in getting this bill passed. This represents a great entertainment option for our fans.”
The gambling industry in North Carolina could expect $1 billion in revenue five years after the law goes into effect. Financial analysts in the General Assembly say they expect more than $70 million in revenue for the state after five years.
About $30 million in state revenue will go to supporting youth sport programs and athletics at 13 UNC system schools. The money will also go to creating a new fund to attract big events, like political conventions, sports tournaments and music festivals.
Analysts estimate more than $40 million would go to the state’s general fund from taxes and fees on sports wagering after five years.
The North Carolina Lottery Commission is tasked with regulating the new gaming industry. Mobile sports betting could begin as soon as Jan. 8, 2024. But the law gives the commission up to a year to set up the framework and licenses for sports betting in the state.
"The North Carolina Lottery Commission is hard at work now to implement this legislation," Cooper said. "It’s a mammoth job."
The commission will be allowed to license 10 to 12 companies for sports betting. It will cost companies $1 million just to apply for the license.
In North Carolina, betting on sports is currently only allowed on tribal lands, including at the casinos in Cherokee and the Catawba Two Kings Casino, in Kings Mountain west of Charlotte.
Several casinos have also opened in Virginia, along the border with North Carolina. The newest casino, in Danville, Virginia, is a short drive from the Triangle and the Triad.
In 2018, the Supreme Court issued a ruling to allow states to legalize sports betting. Since then, more than two dozen states have legalized betting on sports.