North Carolina online sports betting could be up and running on Jan. 8, pending a smooth state regulatory and licensing process.
But making that launch date depends on how quickly sports betting regulations are vetted by year’s end.
Right now, state regulators at the NC Education Lottery are keeping any draft sports betting regulations – and most internal deadlines – out of the public eye. A Sept. 8 email to Gaming Today from NC Education Lottery Communications Director Van Denton said the agency is “not ready to go over our regulatory process yet. We’re focused on getting staff in place and that process prepared.”
Additionally, the North Carolina Lottery Commission does not have a meeting date or agenda posted on its website for September, although that could change. The commission is reportedly working on draft regulations that will guide licensing of up to 12 online sportsbooks and eight retail sportsbooks under the state’s 2023 sports betting law.
“Check back for updates,” reads a sports betting FAQ section on the NC Education Lottery website.
Regulatory Timeline Up in the Air
Three primary issues are at play: North Carolina commercial (online and retail) sports betting must be ready to launch by June 14, 2024 – 12 months after the law took effect last June – per state law; North Carolina commercial sports betting cannot launch before Jan. 8, 2024, per state law; and the North Carolina Lottery Commission will have full control of commercial sports betting regulation.
That means that North Carolina online sports betting will launch at some point before next summer, and the Lottery Commission is the agency in charge.
The commission’s authority is written into the North Carolina Lottery Act (Chapter 18C) which was amended by lawmakers to include sports wagering.
As a result, sportsbook regulation appears to be exempt from the state’s Administrative Procedure Act that governs rule-making for most state agencies and occupational licensing boards and commissions. The North Carolina State Lottery is one of five agencies listed as having “full exemption” from the act. That means that aside from specific statutory requirements, the Lottery Commission is not required to follow prescribed filing deadlines for permanent and temporary rulemaking under the North Carolina Administrative Code that applies to most agencies statewide.
Chapter 18C is very clear about the Lottery Commission’s authority:
“The Commission shall be located in the Department of Commerce for budgetary purposes only; otherwise, the Commission shall be an independent, self-supporting, and revenue-raising agency of the State. The Commission shall reimburse other governmental entities that provide services to the Commission.”
NC Sports Betting Law May Expedite Launch
What is prescribed in North Carolina’s sports betting law are deadlines for issuing licenses.
According to the state’s sports betting law, the Lottery Commission “shall review and issue (a sports wagering license) to qualified applicants within 60 days of receipt of a completed application”, with up to 30 days more if needed. The same period of time applies to service providers.
The law does not appear to anticipate a long licensing wait.
According to HB 347, the North Carolina Lottery Commission “may accept and issue applications for licensure … prior to Jan. 8, 2024, in order that licenses may begin operations (on that date).”
It is the law that provides for expedited licensing. Like several other states, North Carolina will allow operators who meet similar licensing qualifications in other legal sports betting jurisdictions to move more quickly through its regulatory process.
Per North Carolina’s law:
“A person holding a license to conduct sports wagering, on the basis of comparable licensing requirement issued to that person by a proper authority in another state or territory of the United States or District of Columbia if that jurisdiction’s requirements for licensure, certification, or registration are substantially equivalent to or exceed the requirements of this State, and who, in the opinion of the Commission otherwise meets the requirements of this Article based upon verified evidence may, upon application, be licensed as an interactive sports wagering operator with or without further examination.”
North Carolina “may also accept another jurisdiction’s or approved third party’s testing of the interactive sports wagering platform as evidence that the sports wagering platform meets any requirements mandated by the Commission,” per HB 347.
More Launch Updates to Come
Despite the lack of proposed regulations, North Carolina sports betting regulators have been pretty busy in the three months since Gov. Roy Cooper signed HB 347 into law.
Gaming Laboratories International (GLI) – a top firm for testing and certification of sports betting equipment – was hired by the Lottery Commission on Aug. 11. The prior week, the commission hired former Massachusetts Sports Wagering Director Sterl Carpenter to lead its gaming compliance and sports betting division. Email registration for potential operators and service providers is also up and running.
Whether or not that indicates a sports betting launch target date of Jan. 8, however, is anybody’s guess.
The last possible date to launch under the law is June 14, 2023 – exactly 12 months from the law’s effective date.
Currently, legal sports betting is only allowed on North Carolina tribal lands.