Featured in this article:
  • Two Bills Would Regulate North Carolina Online Sportsbooks
  • The Bills Have Bipartisan Support and are Identical
  • Up to 12 Online Operators Could Receive Sportsbook Licenses

North Carolina lawmakers are debating whether to regulate online sportsbooks. Two years ago, the state allowed retail sportsbooks at its tribal casinos. However, those casinos are located in the remote western part of the state. For most North Carolinians, placing bets at those locations is inconvenient at best.

Now, politicians in both the state House and Senate introduced bills to bring online sportsbook operators into the fold. With neighboring Virginia and Tennessee cashing in on mobile bettors, the Tar Heel state may not be far behind.

What Is in North Carolina Online Sportsbook Bills?

In a good sign for supporters of regulated betting, the House and Senate bills are identical. The sponsors of HB631 and SB688 hope to minimize conflict between competing proposals. Such debates sunk Ohio’s last attempt to regulate betting and negatively impacted Georgia’s chances of legalization.

Harrah's River Valley

Harrah’s River Valley Casino already features a retail sportsbook.

Likewise, regulated North Carolina online sportsbooks enjoy bipartisan support. The Senate bill is co-sponsored by Senators Jim Perry (R-Kinston) and Paul Lowe (D-Winston Salem). The two are specifically pitching regulation to support educational funding. However, their proposal contains a relatively low 8% tax rate on betting revenue.

Other details of the bills include:

  • Between 10 and 12 online sportsbook operator licenses.
  • A one-time $500,000 licensing fee.
  • Renewal fees of $100,000.
  • Allowing bets on professional, collegiate, amateur, and electronic sports.

Additional rules for what bets are allowed would be determined by the North Carolina Educational Lottery Commission. The minimum age for gambling in North Carolina is 21.

Proceeds From Regulated Sportsbooks

Supporters believe the North Carolina online sportsbook market could bring in up to $50 million per year. However, a more expansive gambling reform could up the state’s revenues towards the billions.

Right now, North Carolina’s gambling market is limited to the state lottery and the three tribal casinos in the western mountains. A lottery-funded study into building more casinos and regulating various types of gambling showed staggering potential.

The types of gambling the study considered legalizing included:

  • Nine commercial casinos spread throughout North Carolina.

    Sports betting board displaying games

    Regulated baseball bets coming to North Carolina before the World Series?

  • Allowing retail sportsbooks at all new casinos.
  • Regulating online sportsbooks.
  • Video poker at non-casino locations like bars and rest stops.
  • Pari-mutuel horse racing.
  • Internet lottery ticket sales.
  • Online real money casino gaming.

By allowing the full suite of gambling options, North Carolina could add $5 billion in revenue within five years. For now, lawmakers are only considering bills to regulate online sportsbooks.

What’s Next For North Carolina Online Sportsbooks?

Because of the bipartisan support, the two North Carolina online sportsbooks bills have a strong future. The 2021 legislative session runs through July 2, so there is plenty of time to discuss regulation.

Unlike other states, it does not appear the state’s Native American gaming compact is an impediment to legalization. It is unclear how the purely commercial sportsbook expansion would impact the Cherokee Tribe and their casinos. One method could be offering the Tribe preferred online operator licenses. Sharing a new and growing pie amongst all stakeholders may provide a path towards regulation.

Both bills need to pass through multiple readings and what will surely be a lively amendment process. However, starting with identical, bipartisan bills makes passage more likely. Regulated North Carolina online sportsbooks could be running by the middle of this fall’s NFL season.


Brad Vanderhide

Brad Vanderhide is an avid blackjack player and sports bettor whose only rule is to never wager on or against his beloved Cleveland Browns. With a background in politics, law, and government compliance, his writing provides a high-level overview of the changing online gambling landscape. As a native Ohioan, Brad cannot wait for his state to get out of its own way and open up legalized sport betting and online casino gaming.

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