There’s nothing vague about who will be eligible for mobile sports betting licenses in North Carolina under a new state budget approved by lawmakers Friday.
The 600-plus page budget bill — delayed by months of negotiation — would change a North Carolina sports betting law signed in June by eliminating a cap of 12 interactive, or mobile, sports wagering operator licenses under existing law. It would instead allow one operator for each of the sports organizations as defined in the bill. Operators would have to sign written agreements with the organizations to qualify for licensing in North Carolina.
A quick count indicates that change would keep the number of mobile sportsbook licenses at around 12 — but with practically zero guesswork about who will qualify.
Organizations tied to those operators would include: North Carolina’s five top-level professional sports teams (North Carolina Courage (NWSL); Charlotte Hornets (NBA); Carolina Panthers (NFL); Carolina Hurricanes (NHL); and Charlotte FC (MLS)). Also included are Charlotte Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, Quail Hollow Country Club (PGA), and Sedgefield Country Club (PGA).
Any future North Carolina MLB team would also be included, as would a sports governing body that sanctions NASCAR national touring races in the state and a sports governing body that sanctions more than one pro golf tourney in North Carolina.
The bill now goes to Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper to be signed into law. Any veto is reportedly likely to be overridden by the Republican-led state legislature.
Sports Betting ‘Clean-Up’ Language
All in all, the sports betting language in the budget bill approved Friday appears to be what is called “clean-up language,” in legislative speak.
North Carolina’s sports betting law signed (HB 347) by Gov. Cooper last summer does not specify which organizations qualify for a mobile sports betting license in North Carolina. That law instead set a limit of 12 mobile operators and gave the North Carolina State Lottery Commission the authority to “review and issue sports wagering licenses to qualified applicants.”
The budget bill (HB 259) passed Friday by a vote of 70-40 in the House and 26-17 in the Senate leaves practically nothing undefined:
- A professional sports team, per the budget, is a team that “competes in the highest level” of “baseball, men’s soccer, basketball, football, ice hockey, or women’s soccer.”
- Motorsports facility is defined as a track that hosts more than one NASCAR national touring race per year, or has hosted at least one NASCAR All-Star Race since Jan. 1, 2022.
- A professional golf tournament is defined as a “professional sports event played in this State that is governed by an American governing body of the highest level of professional golf and has more than 50,000 live spectators anticipated to attend.”
Retail sports betting will also be allowed through those organization’s facilities if included in the written agreements.
Rollout Deadline Unchanged
Unchanged is a June 14, 2024 deadline for the state’s mobile and online rollout. That deadline was set by HB 347 last summer, although a North Carolina statewide launch is expected as early as Jan. 8.
Right now, the North Carolina State Lottery Commission is working to get policies, staff, and equipment in place to assist with the rollout next year.
On Wednesday, the State Lottery Commission’s Operations and Personnel Committee recommended approval of rulemaking policy and procedures for sports betting in the Tar Heel State. The commission anticipates “rapid implementation,” regulators said before the vote.