North Carolina Open Application Window For Sports Betting Operators; March Madness Launch Target Remains Possible

Following last week’s unanimous approval of the sports wagering licensing process, the North Carolina Lottery Commission (NCLC) has officially launched its application portal on its new website. Operators looking to obtain a license in the state can now apply.

Sportsbooks Vying For Limited Licenses

Interested parties must submit their completed application by Dec. 27 at the latest. The commission will then have 60 days to review all applications, giving them a Feb. 20 deadline to approve operators.

In addition to standard background and compliance checks, the commission allows applicants to submit a “written designation agreement,” — a unique aspect of North Carolina’s sports betting bill. These agreements are established between an operator and a sports team, league, or venue. The commission will give preference to operators with “written designation agreements”. That said, it is not required to gain entrance into the state.

The NCLC will approve 12 operators to launch an online sportsbook, eight of which will also have retail sportsbooks. 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. Bet365 is the only operator that has made their written designation agreement public so far, announcing their partnership with the Charlotte Hornets on Nov. 17.

Timeline Uncertain, But March Madness Launch Possible

Though state lawmakers were initially aiming for a launch by the Super Bowl on Feb. 11, the commission announced last week that not only would that target not be met but that they also have no concrete date set at this time.

“We know that the betting public is very interested in knowing the date that the first bets can be made in North Carolina,” the commission’s chair, Ripley Rand, said in a North Carolina Lottery Commission meeting last week.

“There are a number of factors in determining what that date will be – the number of applications that we received, the dates that the applications are completed, the dates that the supporting information is submitted – thousands of pages of information that we’re going to have to review,” he continued.

That said, March Madness tips off a month later on March 19 and – given the history of the basketball programs in the state – it is possible legislators may eyeto this date as a possible launch target.

The University of North Carolina men’s basketball team has been a part of March Madness 51 times (second-most all-time), while Duke University’s team across the state has appeared 45 times (fifth-most all-time). The state will offer legal betting on collegiate sports, making this an optimal time to have sports betting available to basketball fans.

The commission has until June 15, 2023 to launch sports betting. The NCLC’s Sports Betting Committee Chair, Carrie Boyce, said in last week’s meeting that they plan to get the market up and running “well before the June 15 deadline.”

The Value of Having Sports Betting Before March Madness

Aside from the Super Bowl and the World Cup – held every four years – March Madness is the most bet-on event of the year. The American Gaming Association estimated that roughly a quarter of all American adults wagered on March Madness, totaling $15.5 billion in wagers on the event.

North Carolina is in an especially lucrative position for two reasons: it is the ninth-most populous state in the U.S. and the it is home to two of college basketball’s largest fanbases – the North Carolina Tarheels and the Duke Blue Devils.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, North Carolina lawmakers expect to generate roughly $64.6 million in tax revenue in the 2024-2025 fiscal year. This stands to be exceeded if March Madness is available to bet on.

Mia Fowler is a graduate of Chapman University where she studied business marketing and journalism and played on the women’s soccer team. Following her 16-year journey with soccer, she started writing for Lineups.com. She specifically enjoys analysis of the NFL.

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