Nearly $200 million bet in North Carolina’s first week of legalized sports wagering

Legalized statewide sports wagering in North Carolina from smartphones and desktops that began two weeks ago is off to a “strong start,” a state lottery official said on Wednesday, likely buoyed by betting on college basketball at its season’s apex.

Preliminary monetary numbers for the first day and first week of sports wagering were presented at a meeting of the North Carolina State Lottery Commission, which was directed in last June’s sports wagering law to license operators and suppliers and set rules.

Eight interactive sports wagering operators could begin taking bets at noon March 11, the day before the men’s Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament began. The first week ended just after brackets for the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments were released.

By midnight March 11, over $23.9 million had been wagered, of which almost $12.4 million were “promotional wagers” — incentives for new customers offered by the companies once an initial bet is made. And bettors were paid $12.2 million in winnings during the first 12 hours, according to the commission presentation.

Through the first week, over $198.1 million had been wagered, with $141.6 million in bet winnings paid. “Gross wagering revenue” — the base upon which the state will receive its 18% cut in taxes — was close to $42.7 million.

Sterl Carpenter, a commission executive overseeing sports gambling, said it was too early to make informed comparisons of the launch to those in other states. But he did say that North Carolina’s launch appeared “on par” to last year’s rollout in Massachusetts..

Still, “by all accounts, mobile sports wagering in North Carolina is off to a strong start,” Carpenter said, citing public comments by some operators. And he said the early level of winnings “has to do with N.C. State and North Carolina doing pretty well” in the basketball post season.

The North Carolina State University men’s team won its first ACC title since 1987 on March 16 by winning five games in a row, capped by a tournament championship victory over UNC-Chapel Hill.

The 2023 sports gambling legislation, signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper, also authorizes for the future in-person wagering, statewide betting on horse races and rules to permit live horse racing. Before the law was carried out, sports gambling was legal in North Carolina only at three casinos operated by two American Indian tribes.

Among North Carolina Education Lottery games, the full commission also heard Wednesday about the early popularity of “digital instants” that the lottery launched on Nov. 15. Accessed through a log in-protected computer or smartphone screen, the instants play in part like slot machines, with various number and symbol matchings resulting in cash prizes.

Through January, digital instant game sales — reduced by distributed prize proceeds — are more than five times the amount that was projected in the lottery’s annual budget, according to a presentation. Over 147,000 people have played digital instants since the launch, helping overall lottery gaming revenue, with multistate draw games not included, increase so far this fiscal year compared to last year rather than decrease.

Commission Deputy Executive Director Randy Spielman attributed the high sales numbers in part to the lottery already selling draw-game tickets to customers online and a longtime lottery player rewards program on its website.

“Our success can be attributed to how long we’ve been kind of engaging our players from a digital standpoint,” Spielman said.

The education lottery took in record sales of more than $4.3 billion during the fiscal year ending last June 30, resulting in net earnings of $1.015 billion, also a record.


Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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