North Carolina budget bill reduces online sports betting licenses from 12 to 7

North Carolina budget bill reduces online sports betting licenses from 12 to 7

North Carolina's 2023-25 budget bill introduces significant changes to the state's upcoming commercial sports betting regulations, includes provisions for reducing the number of immediately available online sports betting licenses to nearly half. North Carolina's House Bill 347 (HB 347), which was passed earlier this year, empowers the North Carolina State Lottery Commission to regulate online sports betting, with provisions for in-person betting at certain sports venues. The law allows up to 12 online sports betting licenses, with a potential launch date between 8th of January and 14th of June, 2024.

However, delays in the state budget bill raised concerns regarding the rulemaking process for the online betting industry, potentially impacting the timeline for the launch of sportsbooks. Senate Republicans aimed at incorporating the expansion of commercial casinos into the budget bill, but House Speaker Tim Moore's incapacity to secure the required votes prompted GOP leaders to abandon the effort. This casino debate impeded the state budget's progress, drawing criticism from Governor Cooper and a number of other Democrats in Raleigh.

In a significant move, Republican lawmakers added provisions to the state budget bill that modified the rules for the lottery's regulatory framework and the process of application for potential sportsbook operators. Remarkably, sportsbooks are now required to sign a "written designation agreement" with a qualified sports betting venue.

The early sports betting legislation permitted the state's major professional sports venues to offer retail sports betting, featuring self-service betting kiosks and computer-backed counters. Notably, these sportsbook operations were restricted to operating solely during live events hosted at the venues.

The list of eligible venues encompasses prominent sports arenas like Bank of America Stadium (home to the NFL's Carolina Panthers), the Spectrum Center (home of the NBA's Charlotte Hornets), PNC Arena (home of the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes), and WakeMed Park (home of the NWSL's North Carolina Courage). Additionally, the sports betting legislation extends qualification to Charlotte Motor Speedway, as well as two stops on the PGA Tour – Sedgefield Country Club and Quail Hollow Club. It is worth noting here that the last three venues are designated as "temporary" retail sportsbook locations.

Now, the state’s budget specifies that an online sportsbook can only be considered for a license once it has effectively established a partnership with one of the above-mentioned venues. Furthermore, one venue can establish partnership with only one interactive sports wagering operator. As a result, the state's initial plan to grant up to 12 online sportsbook licenses appears to have been reduced, potentially to a maximum of 7 licenses.

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