North Carolina mobile sports betting and horse race betting officially became legal on June 14 when Gov. Roy Cooper signed HB 347 into law. The bill will allow up to eight retail and 12 online sportsbooks, growing the state’s sports betting landscape exponentially after initially legalizing retail sports betting at tribal casinos in 2019.
The law will come into effect on Jan. 8, 2024, meaning NC online sportsbooks could go live in time for the 2024 NFL playoffs.
When that happens, sportsbooks in Virginia will face new competition from their southern neighbor. How much will sports betting in North Carolina affect Virginia sports betting.
New NC bill includes sports venues and online operators
The first NC retail sportsbooks opened in May 2021 at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River. This proved insufficient for many in The Tar Heel State, causing the state to miss out on millions in potential revenue.
As such, state legislators looked to expand sports betting in late 2021 with a bill that passed through the Senate, but Rep. Jason Saine’s identical House Bill failed to gain approval during its June 2022 vote.
This year, Saine tried again and successfully helped pass HB 347. The bill then passed through the Senate, with Sen. Jim Perry as the leading proponent.
Under the new bill, online sports betting becomes legal, and retail sports betting expands to include professional sports venues. Retail sportsbooks will operate within 1.5 miles of the state’s eight professional sports venues.
Half of those venues are in Charlotte.
- Bank of America Stadium: Carolina Panthers
- Spectrum Center: Charlotte Hornets
- Charlotte Motor Speedway: NASCAR
- Quail Hollow: PGA Tour
The other four are scattered across the state.
- Raleigh’s PNCA Arena: Carolina Hurricanes
- Cary’s WakeMed Soccer Park: North Carolina FC
- North Wilkesboro Speedway: NASCAR
- Greensboro’s Sedgefield Country Club: PGA Tour
Location, location, location
The Virginia/North Carolina border sits within an hour-and-a-half drive of four major NC metropolitan areas: Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Durham. These cities have a combined population of about 3.5 million.
Currently, just three tribal casinos operate retail sportsbooks in the state. In addition to the two Harrah’s properties’ sportsbooks, the Catawba Two Kings Casino retail sportsbook opened in September 2022.
Only Catawba lies adjacent to a major city (Charlotte). For most of the state, Virginia sportsbooks are more convenient to patronize than NC retail casinos. Come January, North Carolina bettors will not need to travel at all. That will certainly impact Virginia’s mobile betting business more than North Carolina’s retail one.
Indiana recently faced a similar fate when Ohio sports betting went live on Jan. 1. Ohioans made up an estimated 10% of Indiana’s betting handle, resulting in double-digit drops year-over-year for The Hoosier State. Other states have also experienced poaching, such as New Jersey when mobile betting went live in New York.
However, North Carolina’s major cities are further from Virginia than Cincinnati and New York City are from their respective border states. Virginia sportsbooks will still take a hit but should be able to avoid double-digit percentage drops.
Growth and maturity bring increased competition
The discussion of mobile sports betting in Virginia and North Carolina only represents one side of the gambling street. On the other side of things, Virginia recently opened its first retail casinos.
All three sit near the North Carolina border and threaten its casino industry.
In other words, the same North Carolina business Virginia sportsbooks stand to lose could represent the newest target market for retail casinos in The Old Dominion.
It’s just the nature of the beast as the gambling industry continues toward maturity nationwide.
Comparing NC and VA sports betting laws
Virginia will enjoy a three-year head start over its southern neighbor, but the differences in each state’s legal structure will determine sports betting’s success at generating tax revenue.
North Carolina will tax 18% of gross wagering revenue on its sports betting operators. Virginia’s conditions are slightly lower, at 15%.
Since launching in January 2021, Virginia online sportsbooks have accepted more than $10 billion in wagers, resulting in $1 billion in revenue and more than $100 million for the state’s general fund.
Like Virginia, North Carolina will have its state lottery oversee all licensing and regulatory actions for sports betting.
Virginia sportsbooks cannot deduct free play and promotional winnings from their revenue totals. North Carolina won’t allow it either, as state legislators want their full share of the tax bill, which looks to reach $100 million in five years.
By that estimate, North Carolina would be a smaller market than Virginia, which hit that milestone in half that time. However, Virginia sportsbooks have had boosted numbers from North Carolina residents, something that won’t last much longer.
In actuality, the two will boast similar market sizes. However, North Carolina will have one advantage. It is allowing in-state collegiate sports wagering. Virginians cannot bet on their college teams within state lines.
But after Jan. 8, they could travel south to place those wagers.