By Pierce Brannen
Sports betting venue at Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort (Photo courtesy of WNCT)
Governor Roy Cooper has signed off on a bill to legalize online sports betting in North Carolina, which could go into effect as early as January and no later than June of next year. North Carolina is the latest state in a wave of legalizations in recent years, as the industry continues to rapidly grow throughout the country. What can fans of Charlotte FC expect to come of this new law?
Sports Betting Increases Fan Engagement
The biggest impact for the club will be with fan engagement. In a 2021 study conducted by data company Safe Betting Sites, they researched interest in betting among American sports fans. Surprisingly, MLS fans showed more interest in betting than any other major American sports league, with 53% saying they would be “very interested” and 39% saying they would be “somewhat interested” in betting on the MLS should it become legal in their state.
Sports betting gives casual viewers more reason to get excited and involved with the games, and the club can anticipate seeing its fanbase grow as a result. This should benefit the club financially, as they can expect higher viewership, along with increases in ticket and merchandise sales.
As MLS continues to grow its audience, this should be a step in the right direction for growth in the NC market. This rise in exposure and fan involvement is one of the biggest arguments in favor of legalized sports betting, and why we see so many partnerships of sportsbooks with professional American sports leagues and teams.
Sports Betting Inside Bank of America Stadium
Another change we can expect to see is in Bank of America Stadium. Many teams across the country (in legal states) have already added sportsbooks inside their stadium, allowing fans in attendance to place wagers from the concourse. Even though the majority of bets placed today are mobile bets, having a brick-and-mortar sportsbook conveniently located inside the stadium provides a fun, hands-on appeal to fans on matchday.
Bank of America Stadium qualifies as an eligible stadium to add one, and it would not be a surprise if David Tepper takes advantage of this and incorporates on-site betting inside Bank of America Stadium for both Panthers and Charlotte FC games, as well as the annual slate of college football games and other sporting events it hosts.
To do so, it would most likely require a partnership with a well-established sportsbook, which would also be a significant financial benefit for the club, as most major sports teams in legal states have done. This would also affect matchday advertising and promos, encouraging fans to get involved with betting on their favorite club.
The Downside to Legalized Gambling
However, despite these benefits to both the organizations and the state of North Carolina, there are still many advocating against sports betting. It is important to recognize that gambling can be highly addictive, and many people feel making it this accessible is dangerous to many of our state’s citizens. We’ve also recently been seeing more and more instances of professional athletes violating league rules by placing wagers on sports, something strictly prohibited for anyone involved with a major sports league.
In the football world, Premier League striker Ivan Toney (Brentford) is currently facing an 8-month ban and a $50,000 fine for violating the FA’s betting rules, placing over 200 bets, including dozens of bets on teams he was currently under contract with. In April, the Premier League voted to ban gambling sponsors on the front of their jerseys, in an effort to discourage irresponsible gambling behavior to its fans.
In the US, we have seen multiple stories recently of NFL players violating league rules, most notably Calvin Ridley serving a year-long suspension last season for betting on his team while he was out injured. We’ve seen more and more suspensions this off-season as the NFL has cracked down on players betting and doing investigations on potential violations.
Gambling Already Occurs in NC, Now the State Will Benefit
It’s worth noting that keeping sports betting illegal in North Carolina would not mean gambling will not happen. There are a couple of legal casinos in NC already, owned and operated by two federally recognized tribes in the Western part of the state. Also, with multiple bordering states that have legalized mobile sports betting, any North Carolinian looking to place a bet can make the drive across state lines to do so.
Finally, there’s also the option of using illegal off-shore online sportsbooks. The point being, if a North Carolina resident wants to place a bet, there are loopholes to do so. By legalizing it, the state is able to convert those bets by NC residents into tax revenue to benefit the state, rather than letting it continue to be outsourced to other states.
According to WSOC TV, the state estimates that by 2028, they will be bringing in around $71 million annually in tax revenue from sports betting. They plan to use this money towards “local, regional and state athletics initiatives, athletic programs at most University of North Carolina system schools and problem-gambling programs”.
Regardless, it seems inevitable that sports betting will be legal nationwide in the coming years, in part due to strong encouragement by these major sports franchises looking to grow their markets and profits. Like it or not, sports betting doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, and as a result, will alter the way we experience professional sports here in North Carolina.
*While gambling can be fun, it can also be destructive. If you or anybody you know needs support dealing with a gambling problem call 1-800-GAMBLER.