North Carolina May See More College Sports Betting Than Others with Mobile Launch

Statewide online sports betting is scheduled to launch on March 11 in North Carolina, and regulators say players can start signing up with the state’s new mobile bookmakers and depositing on Friday.

Feb 29, 2024 • 13:35 ET • 4 min read
Duke Jeremy Roach North Carolina
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The timing is no coincidence. 

Statewide online sports betting is scheduled to launch in North Carolina on March 11, and regulators say players can sign up and deposit with authorized mobile bookmakers beginning on Friday.

It will be interesting to see what betting markets attract the most attention in North Carolina, as the state’s sports landscape has some unique features and perhaps different wagering preferences than others.

For instance, North Carolina is home to two college basketball powerhouses (Duke and UNC) and is a hub for NASCAR, which is also part of the state’s licensing scheme. 

But the timing of the launch is a big hint as to what Tar Heels want, wagering-wise.

"The idea is to try to get it in place before March Madness," Gov. Roy Cooper told reporters in January. "There's a lot going on at the lottery commission to make sure that that process goes the right way."

There are other hints about the higher degree of interest there may be in the Tar Heel State in college sports wagering. 

Technically, there is already legal sports betting in North Carolina at three brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, two of which are run by Caesars Sportsbook-operator Caesars Entertainment Inc. 

So, while the Caesars Sportsbook app and site are on track to launch in North Carolina in a few weeks, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River have had retail versions since 2021. 

The wagering seen at those Caesars Sportsbooks to date suggests regulators were smart to schedule the online sports betting launch in time for the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament.

Caesars told Covers this week that their retail bettors in North Carolina are indeed wagering more on college sports than what the bookmaker sees on average in the U.S. at its brick-and-mortar facilities. 

College basketball wagering in North Carolina amounted to 16% of bets and 20% of handle for Caesars since 2021, three and five percentage points higher, respectively, than the company’s national average. College football wagering, meanwhile, was 15% of bets and 17% of handle, four and two percentage points higher, respectively, than the national average. 

Caesars also told Covers that retail bettors in North Carolina are placing more straight wagers and fewer parlays than the U.S. as a whole, although the casino operator did not provide numbers for that claim. 

Howdy neighbor

There are two states bordering North Carolina with legal online sports betting, although only one breaks out the handle of specific sports in its reporting. To that end, the wagering habits of nearby Virginia could provide some clues as to what North Carolinians could want from their mobile sportsbooks. 

A presentation to the Virginia Lottery Board last month showed professional basketball accounted for 20.3% of total wagering from January 2023 to November 2023, while "football" (presumably both pro and college) was 15.08% of handle, tennis 12.59%, baseball 10.99%, and college basketball 6.13%. 

Despite not being a sport per se, "parlays" represented 23.75% of Virginia’s handle through the first 11 months of 2023. It's likely that that love affair, same-game and otherwise, will continue in North Carolina.

Historical data dive

The National Council on Problem Gambling's National Survey on Gambling Attitudes and Gambling Experiences provides a bit more insight, albeit with more dated data.

The 2018 edition of the study found that 75% of respondents from North Carolina wagered on professional football in the past year, followed by 42% who bet on college football and professional basketball, and then 41% who said they gambled on NCAA hoops. 

North Carolina’s figures for the council’s 2018 survey again suggest a higher interest in wagering on college sports than elsewhere in the U.S. Nationally, 36% of respondents reported betting on college football in the past year and 30% on college basketball, or six and 11 percentage points lower than North Carolina.

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