Cooper signs sports gambling bill into law, but no betting allowed yet

The NC Lottery Commission must now award licenses to mobile sports wagering operators. Mobile sports gambling can not begin in the state until January 8 and it could take longer.
Posted 2023-06-14T15:14:33+00:00 - Updated 2023-06-14T22:13:29+00:00

Mobile sports betting is now legal in North Carolina, but gamblers will have to wait until next year to place their wagers.

Gov. Roy Cooper signed legislation Wednesday allowing for mobile sports betting across the state at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte before dozens of sports betting supporters and officials from North Carolina teams.

"This is a historic moment for the state of North Carolina," Cooper said. "And this will benefit our economy for generations to come."

What's next for sports betting in NC? | How to bet on sports online in North Carolina?

Now it is up to the NC Lottery Commission to turn the bill into practice. The commission is tasked with taking applications from mobile sports wagering operators and awarding 12 licenses. The five-year, renewable licenses cost $1 million. The law allows for adults located in North Carolina to bet on college, professional, electronic and Olympic sports.

The earliest mobile sports betting could start in North Carolina is January 8, but the commission has until one year from Cooper's signing to have sports betting live in the state.

"The North Carolina Lottery Commission is hard at work beginning the process of implementation of this legislation," Cooper said. "It is a mammoth job."

Cooper said he would like to see gambling operational by January. In addition to approving licenses, the commission must also get a system set up for tax revenue collection. In many other states, including Virginia and Tennessee, regulators publish monthly figures on the amount bet and taxes collected.

"It's important that they get it done right," Cooper said. "We want this to become effective as soon as possible, but we want to make sure it is done right."

The legislation also permits in-person sports betting at eight sports venues across the state, including the Spectrum Center. PNC Arena in Raleigh and WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary are the two Triangle locations that will be allowed to have sports books.

"For us, it's a big, big deal because we're trying to make PNC Arena a destination place," said Don Waddell, the Carolina Hurricanes' team president and general manager, before Cooper signed the bill. "This is another way to encourage people to come out to the arena."

PNC Arena, which opened in 1999, is slated for a renovation project and a sports book could play a central role.

"The plan is to have a world-class sports wagering facility that will also have a restuarant and a bar element," sad Nigel Wheeler, the general counsel for the Hurricanes. "We may also have some other type of elements as well so it can be converted into a lot of different types of things."

The state's professional sports teams were enthusiastic supporters of the legislation, lobbying on behalf of it and meeting with state lawmakers throughout the process.

"This legislation will help these professional teams to grow even more and to thrive," Cooper said, who urged lawmakers to use some of the revenue to further fund public education in North Carolina.

The teams and venues will likely partner with operators to run the in-person sports books, an agreement that could help the operators distinguish their applications for one of 12 licenses.

"We wanted to see were the legislation ends up and then obviously there will be some administrative review from the Lottery Commission," said Greg Walter, executive vice president and general manager at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "Once we get those parameters and architecture, then I think we can talk more about it and make more plans."

Wheeler said the process of finding a partner for PNC Arena and the Hurricanes could take months.

"We want to ensure that not only are faolks happy with the operator, but that we're happy with them for the long term," Wheeler said.

Fred Whitfield, president and vice chairman of the Charlotte Hornets, said the franchise would take its time in exploring options to put a sports book in the Spectrum Center.

"It's another opportunity for small-market teams like us to generate additional revenue to be able to compete," Whitfield said. "We want to do everything we can to improve the product on the court, improve the fan experience (and) allow our fans to do the same things fans can do in other markets."

Two-thirds of North Carolina voters support the legalization of sports betting, according to a new Elon poll conducted in early June.

In-person sports betting is currently legal at three tribal casinos in North Carolina, which will become the 28th state to legalize mobile sports betting. A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowed states to decide if they wanted to legalize sports betting. An effort to legalize mobile sports betting failed in the House by a single vote in 2022, something that several lawmakers referenced during Wednesday's signing ceremony.

"It gave us an opportunity to work harder," said Rep. Jason Saine, a Lincoln County Republican and top sponsor of the legislation. "You don't always win championships, but you're always working for the championship. To do the hard work, to talk to all the legislators, to talk to people across the state and build support for it."

The legislation passed the House in late March. The Senate then made a host of changes, including increasing the tax rate paid by operators and allowing gambling on horse racing, before passing its version on June 1. The House concurred with the Senate changes, giving its final approval on June 7.

Where the money goes

The bill allocates money from license fees and taxes to several different areas after the Department of Revenue and Lottery Commission receive money for expenses. Projections indicate the state could generate about $100 million in taxes from sports betting by its fifth year. The state will collect an 18% tax on gross gaming revenue from operators.

  • $2 million annually for Department of Health and Human Services for gambling addiction education and treatment programs.
  • $1 million annually to North Carolina Amateur Sports for grants to local governments or non-profit organizations to expand opportunities for youth sports participation. Organizations in a single county can receive no more than 1% of the total funding.
  • $300,000 to the athletic departments at Appalachian State, East Carolina, Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central, UNC-Asheville, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Pembroke, UNC-Wilmington, Western Carolina and Winston-Salem State.
  • $1 million to the North Carolina Heritage Advisory Council for grants to assist youth teams travel to events or attract events to North Carolina.
  • Of the remaining proceeds: 20% to the athletic departments at the above colleges and universities; 30% to the North Carolina Major Events, Games and Attractions Fund; 50% to the state's General Fund. The Major Events, Games and Attractions Fund would provide grants to draw entertainment, musical, political, sporting or theatrical events, held no more than once a year, to the state's sports facilities and venues.