North Carolina Pro Teams Support Legal Sports Betting

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The owners of most professional sports teams across the US were against the spread of legal sports betting until they weren’t. Which was when it became financially beneficial. And less controversial.

North Carolina’s four significant sports property owners are no different, as the legalization of mobile sports betting in the state is now Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature away from realization. The bill passed through the NC House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Key in the North Carolina (NC) sports betting bill garnering favor with the owners of the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, Carolina Hurricanes, and NASCAR was a provision allowing for sportsbooks to be placed within or near venues. The eight facilities included in the bill are the Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium, Hornets’ Spectrum Center, Hurricanes’ PNC Arena, Charlotte Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, Quail Hollow Country Club in Charlotte, Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, and WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.

This has helped make Tom Dundon, Jim France, Michael Jordan, and David Tepper powerful advocates. North Carolina was one of five states – including California, Florida, Georgia and Texas — where the PGA Tour lobbied for the passage of legal sports betting.

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Where NC pro sports team owners stand on legal sports betting.Jim France (NASCAR), left; Michael Jordan (Hornets), center; Tom Dundon, top right, (Hurricanes) and David Tepper (Panthers) all supported the legalization of sports betting in North Carolina (Photos: AP)  

NC Pro Sports Owners Support Legal Betting

Gaming Today examines the depth and history of the owners’ sports betting advocacy.

Carolina Hurricanes

Majority owner: Tom Dundon

Backstory: Dundon has made his support evident through words and actions for years. With the naming rights to PNC Arena expiring in two years, it’s been speculated by Charlotte Business Journal that the team could pair the construction of a nearby sports betting space with new naming rights for a gambling company.

  • Dundon advocated for legalized sports betting in North Carolina as early as 2021.
  • Dundon told The Athletic in 2021 that he hoped eventually to be allowed to open an in-arena sportsbook.
  • Team president Don Waddell lobbied North Carolina lawmakers for the addition of mobile betting in North Carolina the same year. He’s done that multiple times.
  • Waddell told WRAL: “Compared to a lot of teams, we’re already way behind. We can’t compete with all the Canadian cities, the New Yorks, Bostons. We can’t continue to fall further behind.  As revenues go up in the league overall, the (salary) cap goes up. But if our revenues don’t increase, now that 50-50 split starts to tilt the other way. For us, it might be 60% going to the players, only 40% going to us.”
  • It was widely speculated that Dundon had spent $70 million to become the majority owner of the Alliance of American Football as it was about to crater in 2019 to secure the rights to a proprietary sports betting app it had developed. MGM ultimately acquired the technology through a bankruptcy filing.

Carolina Panthers

Majority owner: David Tepper

“We appreciate the tireless efforts of members of the NC House and Senate and are grateful for their support. This will offer a great entertainment option for fans.”

 Tepper Sports & Entertainment Spokesperson

Backstory: A hedge fund manager who spent much of his career working in New Jersey spoke of the benefits of that state’s sports betting model as early as 2019. But he acknowledged in a SI.com article the intricacies of legalizing the enterprise in the Conservative South. He got more aggressive.

  • Tepper wants to replace Bank of America Stadium, which was built in 1996. A sportsbook bidder for the potential naming rights could fetch tens of millions.
  • He also owns the city’s MLS team — Charlotte FC, which shares BofA Stadium with the Panthers — allowing for a sports betting double-dip with venue-adjacent sportsbooks.
  • Since 2018, Tepper has advocated for sports betting spaces as social centers for fans.
  • In 2019, Tepper told SI of sports betting: “I think it takes time, especially down here in the Belt.  When other states around you do it, it’ll come. It becomes a revenue issue for different things they want to do in the states. … People have to decide what they want to do and what’s right for them. And the New Jersey model is basically mobile phones everywhere and it’s raising a lot of money for the state, so people have to decide what’s important to them. Full stop.”

Charlotte Hornets

Majority owner: Michael Jordan

Backstory: Jordan’s personal betting habits are well-documented, and he’s wielded his considerable influence in mainstreaming sports wagering in his post-playing career.

  • Jordan is a member of the Board of Directors and an equity stakeholder with DraftKings.
  • In 2021, the Hornets dispatched former NBA former stars Muggsy Bogues and Dell Curry to lobby lawmakers in Raleigh.

NASCAR

Majority owner: France family

“It’s huge for us. We’ve seen 30-plus states legalize and I would say the bulk of NASCAR country, those states are kind of in the minority, haven’t legalized yet. So the fact that North Carolina seems to be coming on board is definitely a positive marker for us.”

Joe Solosky, NASCAR managing director of sports betting on expanding in the South

Backstory: NASCAR’s headquarters is in Daytona Beach, Fla., but the company has a major production facility in Charlotte. Its leaders have viewed legal sports betting as an engagement tool for years, establishing a corporate officer to stoke television viewership by pitching wagering as an engagement tool. Though NASCAR’s percentage of the national sports betting handle remains small, the series has continued to press for legalization in the South in general and North Carolina in particular.

  • Phoenix Raceway, whose parent company, International Speedway Corp., is owned by NASCAR, announced plans to build a retail sportsbook but has yet to do so.
  • Two NASCAR venues in North Carolina: Charlotte Motor Speedway and North Wilkesboro Speedway qualify for sportsbooks under the new law.

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About the Author
Brant James

Brant James

Senior Writer
Brant James is a senior writer at Gaming Today. An alum of the Tampa Bay Times, ESPN.com, espnW, SI.com and USA Today, he's covered motorsports and the NHL as beats, once made a tail-hook landing on an aircraft carrier with Dale Earnhardt Jr., and rode to the top of Mt. Washington with Travis Pastrana. John Tortorella yelled at him numerous times. In covering the sports betting industry, he's looking for what and who are next and why.

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