North Carolina Ramps Up Preparations for Online Sports Betting

Grant Mitchell
Grant Mitchell
USA Legal Betting


  • North Carolina sportsbooks can pre-register customers starting on March 1
  • Sports betting could add an estimated $100 million in tax funding within five years
  • Funding for the problem gambling program will not begin until July

North Carolina sports betting will go live in less than three weeks, and the state regulator is close to having the market ready for operation.

“We are continuing to make significant strides towards putting all the different pieces together and being prepared for the successful launch of sports and pari-mutuel wagering on March 11, which is not that far off,” North Carolina Lottery Commission Chair Ripley Rand said during a Wednesday meeting.  

Several operators are close to receiving full licensing. Once approved, they will be allowed to pre-register customers starting on March 1 until the full launch on March 11.

Working overtime 

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper legalized online sports betting by signing HB 347 in June 2023, giving the state less than a year to prepare itself for operation.

According to Rand, the commission had “two years of meetings in the last six months” in preparation for the launch, just before the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament and March Madness.

Two suppliers were recently approved, bringing the total to 14 entities that are in possession of provisional licenses to work with sports betting operators. Executive director of sports betting Sterl Carpenter said that the commission is working toward completing compliance checks by the end of next week.

Nine operators—bet365, BetMGM, Caesars, DraftKings, ESPN Bet, Fanatics, FanDuel, Two Kings Catawba, and Underdog—have applied for licensing. The commission said that several are well on their way to receiving their licenses, though they did not specify which ones. 

Caesars already has a partnership with the Eastern Band of Cherokees, who operate two of North Carolina’s retail casinos. That means that it will have an easier entry into the market due to tribal gaming laws.

Each license will cost $1 million annually and run for five years. Sportsbooks will lose 18% of their gross gaming revenue to taxes, which could total an estimated $100 million for state funding within five years. 

North Carolinians will be able to bet on approved college athletics involving in-state schools, including Duke, North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest, and others.

Preparing for the worst 

While the upcoming launch marks an exciting new chapter for the Tar Heel State, there are still concerns about the potential negative impacts of the expansion of gambling.

“We’re ready. We know it’s coming,” said program administrator for the NC Problem Gambling Program, Amanda Winters, in an interview with NC Health News. “We understand what’s happened in other states, so that’s helped us prepare ourselves a little bit better. But we’re waiting with bated breath to see how it plays out.”

North Carolina is expecting to be even busier than usual because of the timing of its launch—just before the aptly named March Madness. Pre-tournament estimates in 2023 suggested Americans would wager a combined $15.5 billion, five times more than the $3.1 billion estimate in 2022. 

Sports bettors also recently showed their cumulative power during the Super Bowl, before which the American Gaming Association estimated there would be $23.1 billion worth of bets. 

The expectations of flooded hotlines are also not without precedent. Florida, which re-launched its sports betting market in December 2023, experienced a 138% increase in calls and text messages to its helpline within its first 45 days of sportsbook operations.

“We’re struggling and there’s no doubt, trying to keep up is an effort,” said Richard Pinsky of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling. “We’re scrambling, we’re trying to add folks.

North Carolina lawmakers will allocate $2 million in annual funding to the NC Problem Gambling Program, though the first round of funding won’t come until July 1. That leaves four months for them to deal with the potential increase in calls with the staff they already have in place.

“We are able to plan, and that’s a big part of the program that we run here …  ensuring that the plans and the programs we have in place already are on a solid, concrete base and are strong so that when we do build on them, we know that we are starting from a good place,” said Winters.