In a unanimous decision, the North Carolina Lottery Commission has greenlit the launch of legal online sports betting in the state, with platforms scheduled to go live on March 11. The date falls a day before the ACC men’s basketball tournament’s starting date on March 12. NCAA tournament play begins March 19.

Commission Chair Ripley Rand stated: “Bets on sporting events have been made for as long as those events have taken place, but this time they will be legal, they will be done securely and fairly, and they will be made under rules designed to encourage responsible gaming.”

The approved law, signed by Governor Roy Cooper in 2023, originally stipulated that sports gambling could begin no later than June 15. However, the commission’s unanimous vote has accelerated this timeline, allowing for mobile sports betting to commence on March 11.

The decision is a deliberate effort to coincide with the ACC men’s basketball tournament, a cherished event in North Carolina, where four ACC schools are located. March Madness – the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) yearly college basketball tournament – is one of the crucial times for sports betting in the US.

Individuals aged 21 or older will gain access to a broad spectrum of sports betting options, encompassing professional, college, and Olympic-style events. While in-person sports gambling at approved sportsbooks and parimutuel betting on horse racing were also authorized by the 2023 law, they will not debut in March. Instead, in-person betting will be introduced on a “case-by-case basis” as operators fulfill specific requirements.

Nine entities have applied for licenses with the commission to participate in the state’s nascent sports betting market. These applicants must obtain a certificate of compliance to offer betting on their online platforms. Reviews of these applications are currently underway.

Sterl Carpenter, an executive overseeing sports gambling at the commission, outlined the customer onboarding process. Starting March 1, betting enthusiasts can create accounts and deposit money with a licensed operator who has obtained a certificate.

This lead time aims to allow the public to choose between competing operators and familiarize themselves with the online interface and responsible gambling features.

Carpenter stated: “The commission directed staff to implement sports betting as soon as practicable and to do it in a complete, professional, transparent manner and with the highest standards of integrity. We’ve done our best to meet this directive.”

North Carolina’s move toward legal sports betting is in line with broader trends in the United States following a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to authorize sports gambling. The state is set to become the 30th, alongside the District of Columbia, to offer mobile sports betting, according to the American Gaming Association.

Legal sports betting is not entirely new to North Carolina, as it is already operational at three casinos run by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Catawba Indian Nation. These tribes have also applied for online licenses.