Everything You Need to Know About the Launch of North Carolina Sports Betting

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Mar 16, 2024 08:00 PM
Everything You Need to Know About the Launch of North Carolina Sports Betting

Well, it’s official: North Carolina sports betting launched on Monday, March 11, across the entire fate to much fanfare.

The road to getting here was anything but smooth. Governor Roy Cooper signed the bill into law back in June 2023. From there, the rollout of sports betting in North Carolina experienced delays and hangups. 

Initially, The Tar Heel State wanted to launch sports gambling by the beginning of January. They ended up pushing the date back to March 11 while allowing North Carolinians to sign up with online sportsbooks operating in the United States as of March 1. 

Hitting that timeline proved feasible, though some worried the sports calendar wouldn’t make for a particularly good debut. Aside from betting on the 2024 March Madness tournament, there’s not a lot of major events or action on the horizon. The 2024 NFL draft isn’t until April. Ditto for the NBA playoffs and the NHL playoffs.

As it turns out, however, the opening of North Carolina sports betting debuted to much acclaim. Let’s go over some of the more important points of this massive development.

 Is Online Sports Betting in North Carolina Legal? 

This is the single biggest question that gets asked whenever a new state legalizes sports gambling. Some places have chosen to green light only on-site sports betting, either at tribal casinos or designated locations.

But North Carolina will join the growing list of states that also legalized online sports betting. Residents have been able to sign up with the top online sportsbooks within state lates for nearly two weeks, and North Carolina online sports betting went live the same time as retail wagering. 

Financially speaking, this is a wise move from The Tar Heel state. Online sports betting in the United States continues to be the preferred method of sports gambling. Though we don’t have official data for this year, it’s estimated that up to 90 percent of all sports bets placed in the United States during 2024 will be processed through a mobile wagering site.

Accessibility is king here. Consumer trends have shifted over the past 20 years or so. People prefer to wager on sports from the comfort of their own home or while on the go with their mobile. If North Carolina legalized only on-site wagering, they would be diminishing their potential tax revenue tenfold. 

2024 March Madness Betting Leads The Tar Heel State’s Early Handle Returns

Despite concerns that North Carolina sports gambling isn't launching around a bigger tentpole event like the NFL playoffs, the initial turnout has apparently impressed officials. And they have the 2024 March Madness tournament to thank for it.

Almost “half of all wagers placed at BetMGM in the first 24 hours of legal NC sports betting” were on the University of North Carolina winning the NCAA Tournament, according to The Lines. Singular events outside betting on the Super Bowl seldom make up such a large share of the gambling handle. That renders this a big deal.

It also is further proof that North Carolina made the right call when it comes to betting on college basketball and collegiate activities in general. Certain states do not allow residents to bet on teams that compete within the region. North Carolina sports betting does not impose that limitation. (Of course, to be fair, it probably wouldn’t matter. Even places that don’t allow bets on in-state NCAA basketball teams permit it during playoff and championship tournaments.

Can ESPN Bet Rival the Popularity of FanDuel and DraftKings in North Carolina?

The North Carolina sports wagering launch has generated a lot of buzz after green lighting ESPN Bet from the jump. This will be the 38th state with ESPN Bet, which is operated by Penn Entertainment. But it is among the only states in which ESPN bet launched with the opening of a new sports gambling market.

Opening along with the debut of North Carolina online sports betting is critical for ESPN Bet. Penn Entertainment aspires to rival FanDuel and DraftKings online sportsbooks. Then again, so have many other mobile betting sites in the USA. Aside from fellow heavyweights like BetMGM and Caesars, who ESPN Bet also wants to compete against, have failed. And even the bigwig online betting sites in the United States often don’t hold a candle to DraftKings and FanDuel. 

In 2023, the latter two made up more than 75 percent of the total USA betting handle. To some extent, then, ESPN may be fighting a losing battle. FanDuel and DraftKings are ubiquitous. Overtaking them verges on impossible. 

Yet, the North Carolina sports betting market will be a good case study on whether this can change. Because ESPN Bet launched from Day 1, it theoretically has the same level of time and opportunity to recruit new sports gambling customers in The Tar Heel State. Nobody expects them to outperform FanDuel and Draftkings or even BetMGM. But if we fast forward a few months to a year and see that ESPN Bet’s sports gambling market share in North Carolina is abnormally high relative to other locations, it’ll be proof of concept for Penn Entertainment.  

Full List of Sportsbooks Operating in North Carolina

Here is the complete list of online sportsbooks operating in North Carolina, per Legal Sports Report:

  • Bet365
  • BetMGM
  • Caesars (licensed as a service provider for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians)
  • DraftKings
  • ESPN Bet
  • Fanatics
  • FanDuel
  • Underdog

Select casinos have licenses to open brick-and-mortar North Carolina sportsbooks. Retail locations are also expected to break ground around major sporting venues in city hubs such as Raleigh and Charlotte.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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