In preparation for the launch of online sports betting in North Carolina, the Charlotte Hornets have partnered with Bet365. The operator is now the team’s official mobile betting partner and the first to strike a deal with a sports team in North Carolina.
No Retail Sportsbook at Spectrum Center – For Now
The sponsorship deal will include Bet365 logos around Spectrum Center and advertising and promotions on television, social media, and radio. The Hornets join several other franchises as a Bet365 partner, including MLB’s Cleveland Guardians and Colorado Rockies, NFL’s Washington Commanders, and NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. The sponsorship deal is not equivalent to a license in the state, which Bet365 still needs to apply for, however Bet 365 North Carolina will likely be among the first sportsbooks available in the state.
This partnership strictly pertains to mobile betting, though Spectrum Center is also entitled to a retail sportsbook at its stadium, per the language in the bill. There is no plan for a Bet365 retail sportsbook at Spectrum Center right now.
Rule Change Marks New Strategy
HB 347 was amended in September to include a stipulation regarding team-tied market access to sports betting. Under the new rule, the North Carolina Lottery Commission (NCLC) will give preference to sportsbooks that enter into a “written designation agreement” with a team or facility; however, it is not required to gain entrance into the state.
Each team is only allowed to partner with one operator, who will be in charge of the online sportsbook and a retail sportsbook at the sports facility. In essence, this new rule transferred the decisional power from the NCLC to the state’s sports market leaders.
When the rules changed in September, the Hornets “were in the middle of negotiations, talking to all the key players in the space, and it all changed,” Jacob Gallagher, CRO of the Hornets, told Sports Business Journal (SBJ).
“As it [changed], it gave us an opportunity to align with one particular partner instead of maybe multiple partners, which I think all of us were moving toward. And I think at the end of the day that’s a positive for us and the operators.”
Who Gets a License in North Carolina?
There are 11 mobile licenses available in North Carolina, and the Hornets have taken one off the board. The Panthers, Hurricanes, Charlotte FC, and N.C. Courage all have access to a license as well. As does Quail Hollow Country Club, Sedgefield Country Club, Charlotte Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, NASCAR, and the PGA Tour.
Eight additional retail sportsbooks are reserved for the state’s sports facilities: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, PNC Arena, Quail Hollow Country Club, Sedgefield Country Club, Spectrum Center, and WakeMed Soccer Park.
According to SBJ, these teams and facilities “are expected to reveal their pairings in the coming weeks.”
No launch date has been set for North Carolina, but the North Carolina Sports Betting Committee announced this week that it would be after Jan. 8.