Rep. Zack Hawkins Talks Supporting NC Universities Through Sports Betting: Exclusive Lineups Interview
North Carolina Universities Set To Be Major Beneficiaries Of NC Sports Betting
In a unique element of the state’s sports betting bill, North Carolina’s HB 347 is set to bring an influx of cash to collegiate athletic departments across the state.
According to the bill – which was signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper on June 14 – the state will allocate $300,000 of its annual sports betting revenue to 13 of the state’s public universities. Additionally, 20% of the remaining revenue left over after those distributions will be split evenly among the colleges.
The colleges set to benefit are:
- Appalachian State University
- East Carolina University
- Elizabeth City State University
- Fayetteville State University
- North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
- North Carolina Central University
- University of North Carolina at Asheville
- University of North Carolina at Charlotte
- University of North Carolina at Greensboro
- University of North Carolina at Pembroke
- University of North Carolina at Wilmington
- Western Carolina University
- Winston-Salem State University
Sports Betting Funds Set to be Used for Travel Expenses
The money that these schools receive is specifically designed to be used for travel expenses within the athletic department, something that several schools in the state are struggling to keep up with, according to Rep. Zack Hawkins — a primary sponsor of HB 347.
“Their footprint is growing larger as it relates to their conferences and some schools have cut back on (sports) programs,” Hawkins said in relation to smaller schools such as Elizabeth City State University. “They’re having to do money games to fund their department.”
Lack of travel funds and financial constraints “takes a strain on the system,” Hawkins added.
Money Originally Meant For Historically Black Colleges
Hawkins and his constituents found a need to be filled here. And here’s how they did it:
The original version of HB 347 was filed on March 13. In this version, $300,000 of the state’s sports betting revenue was to be distributed to the state’s public HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) — institutions where lawmakers found funding was most needed.
In that same version, an additional 10% of the remaining tax revenue after allocations would be distributed equally among the seven schools. The original schools were: Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, North Carolina Central University, University of North Carolina at Asheville, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Winston-Salem State University.
Later in March, an amendment was made to the original bill that saw the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and Western Carolina University get added to the list of beneficiaries.
At this point, the allocation percentage increased from 10% to 20% and the sports betting tax rate increased from 14% to 18%. Once bigger colleges realized that there was a considerable amount of additional revenue potential tied to gross proceeds, they started lobbying in the House.
In late May, three additional schools were added by the Senate: Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, and University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Notably, these are some of the biggest schools in the state.
“300,000 for them is not necessarily a drop in the bucket but it’s not a game changer either,” Hawkins said. “When you start talking about over a million, that gets on their radar.”
Hawkins had said in a previous interview with Lineups that colleges could eventually take home over a million dollars annually, depending on how well the sports betting market does. This, Hawkins hopes, could allow the smaller schools to completely cover their travel expenses in a given year.
“It was a real opportunity to find a way to help them in a very specific way that could enhance student experience, could [provide] budget release, and it’s one less thing that they now have to think about as it relates to financial constraints,” Hawkins said.
NC Aims To Launch Sports Betting By CFP National Championship
Currently, lawmakers are pushing to launch its sports betting market on January 8, 2024, coincidentally the same day as the CFP National Championship. So, if all goes as planned, North Carolinians will get to wager on college football’s biggest game of the year, followed by the NFL Playoffs, the Super Bowl, and March Madness.
March Madness could be particularly big in North Carolina as it’s home to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC) men’s basketball team which has taken home six NCAA championships in its history, the third-most of any NCAA team.
In terms of the sports betting landscape, Hawkins predicts that the state will have “a decent amount of college bets but that the lion’s share will be professional team betting.”
North Carolina is home to three major sports teams: the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, and Carolina Hurricanes. While those franchises will likely make up for the considerable amount of the professional sports bets placed, the state also hosts Charlotte FC and NC Courage of the MLS and NWSL.