When Governor Roy Cooper inked his signature on HB 347 during the morning of June 14th, North Carolina became the 28th U.S. state to legalize online sports betting. Ahead of its launch, which is expected to be finalized for early 2024, Lineups’ Mia Fowler sat down with North Carolina Rep. Zach Hawkins to discuss what sports betting means for the Tar Heel state and how it could impact its residents moving forward.
North Carolina Sports Betting: A Once-in-a-Decade Opportunity
“[There’s] only a handful of things over the course of decades that are going to be major, transformative things for your state. This is one of them,” said Rep. Zack Hawkins of the state’s new sports betting bill (HB 347).
A 4-year veteran of the state legislature and longtime advocate of legal sports betting, Hawkins is one of the primary sponsors of the bill.
On a local level, there are a number of proposed directives within the bill that are aimed at benefitting North Carolina residents. Foremost amongst these being the revenue opportunities the bill creates for education and community organizations across the state. Between the two, Hawkins feels North Carolina could eventually become a destination by virtue of their legal sports betting status.
“It’s going to take five years to get to a point where we have a baseline, and then I think from year five to year 10 people are just going to want to come to North Carolina like crazy.”
HB 347 not only legalizes online sports betting in the state, but it also allows for individuals to select in-person sports betting options at sports facilities and pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing.
$100.6 Million in Tax Revenue By Year 5
The North Carolina Education Lottery Commission has a year to launch the state’s sports betting market. That said, January 8, 2024 is the target launch date so that “all the kinks can be worked out” prior to the Super Bowl in February, Hawkins said.
The commission will regulate, license, and tax all operators at an 18% tax rate. On top of tax revenue, the state will also issue fees for each license applicant. As a result, the state is expected to generate over $100 million by 2028, according to the fiscal note.
Each year, $1 million will go to North Carolina Amateur Sports (NCAS), $2 million to the Department of Human Health and Human Services for problem gambling programs, and $1 million is for the North Carolina Youth Outdoor Engagement Commission.
Additionally, $300,000 will be distributed to 13 different collegiate athletic departments in the state. These colleges will also receive 20% of the remaining revenue after all allocations have been made.
“That $300,000 is a floor but it will go up in percentage,” Hawkins said. “In a decade, you may be looking at a million.”
In essence, as the state’s sports betting revenue increases, colleges’ share of revenue will also increase. This same standard will also be applied to youth sports programs in counties that don’t support a major university.
“Everybody can point to a win that they’re bringing back to their community,” said Hawkins.
Given several counties in North Carolina don’t have professional sports franchises or a major economy that’s going to attract big events, this will “help the most people,” Hawkins said.
When talking about the potential of North Carolina, Hawkins offered more optimism.
“We’re not Texas, where you have professional franchises in three or four different cities but it wouldn’t surprise me at some point if we get [there],” Hawkins added.
Billions of Dollars Already Being Bet in the State
For now, Hawkins and his fellow legislators are focused on “making sure [sports betting] is done safely, securely, and legally.”
“Billions of dollars are already being bet in the state of North Carolina in the dark,” said Hawkins. “There’s nothing that’s going to be able to help you or your family if you get in over your head or you go off the rails.”
A sizable portion of annual revenue will address problem gambling programs in the state, and the North Carolina Education Lottery Commission is committed to providing the proper resources for those in need.
“The Commission and staff take these responsibilities seriously and are committed to ensuring the job is done in a complete, professional, transparent, and timely manner,” said Ripley Rand, chair of the North Carolina Education Lottery Commission.