RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Legal online sports betting in North Carolina is poised to begin in March, state gambling regulators decided Wednesday, setting the start date for the eve of the region's beloved Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament.
Members of the state lottery commission, which was tasked by the General Assembly last year to license sports gambling operators, voted unanimously to set noon March 11 as the time in which sports betting can commence on mobile devices and computers.
The ACC Tournament begins in Washington on March 12, with the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments to start the following week.
When sports betting is up and running statewide, anyone 21 or older can make bets on pro, college or Olympic-style sports. But the opening date certainly emphasizes the importance of college basketball in North Carolina, where four ACC schools are located and the men's tournament began in the 1950s.
“Bets on sporting events have been made for as long as those events have taken place, but this time they will be legal, they will be done securely and fairly, and they will be made under rules designed to encourage responsible gaming,” commission Chair Ripley Rand said in a news release.
Nine entities have applied with the commission to take bets in the state, the commission has said. Those applicants must receive a certificate of compliance in order to offer betting on their online platforms. Application reviews are continuing.
Starting March 1, betting customers can create new accounts and deposit money with a licensed operator that has obtained a certificate. That will give the public time to choose between competing operators on their betting terms and get used to online interface and responsible gambling features, Sterl Carpenter, a commission executive overseeing sports gambling, told commission members.
The 2023 law approved by the state legislature and signed by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said sports gambling could begin no later than June 15. It also authorized in-person sports gambling at approved sportsbooks and parimutuel betting on horse racing. but neither will start in March. The in-person betting will begin on a “case‐by‐case basis” as interested operators meet requirements, according to Carpenter.
Each gambling operator seeking a piece of the new North Carolina market was required in its application to enter an agreement with an in-state professional team, or certain pro golf or automobile racing venues or governing bodies, to obtain a license. The applications are not public, but some applicants have announced such agreements. For example, the NBA's Charlotte Hornets have an agreement with bet365.
Legal sports betting already has been happening in North Carolina at three casinos operated by either the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians or the Catawba Indian Nation. The two tribes have now applied for online licenses with the state.
North Carolina would become the 30th state, along with the District of Columbia, to offer mobile sports betting, according to the American Gaming Association.
Getting sports betting up and running has been a massive endeavor for the commission, which had no previous experience regulating such wagering until now.
“The commission directed staff to implement sports betting as soon as practicable and to do it in a complete, professional, transparent manner and with the highest standards of integrity," said Carpenter, who was hired last summer after regulating sports betting in Massachusetts. ”We've done our best to meet this directive."