On Wednesday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill legalizing in-person and online sports betting into state law. However, the state will only permit legalized betting as early as January 2024.

Speaking at a signing event held at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, home of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, Cooper said it was a “great day” for the state.

“This is a historic moment for the state of North Carolina, and this will benefit our economy for generations to come,” said Cooper.

Cooper signed House Bill 347, which earlier passed both chambers of the General Assembly with bipartisan support and opposition. The measure successfully leaped over its final hurdle last week after the state House concurred with Senate-made changes to the bill.

Earlier efforts to legalize sports betting in N.C. fizzled last year after a similar bill failed in the House by one vote, despite passing the Senate.

While wagering on college and professional sports are now legal in N.C., potential gamblers must wait till Jan. 8, 2024, at the earliest to place bets. The state’s Lottery Commission, which regulates gambling, has up to a year to implement sports betting.

Cooper remained hopeful that the Lottery Commission will permit sports betting as soon as possible, stating they are “hard at work.”

Cooper, who has long supported sports betting legalization, touted the passage of H.B. 347 as a “bipartisan accomplishment” and was surrounded by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle during the ceremony.

Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, one of H.B. 347’s primary co-sponsors, praised his General Assembly colleagues and the Governor’s Office for collaborating on the bill’s passage, echoing Cooper in calling the legislation a “bipartisan effort.”

One of Saine’s bipartisan collaborators and bill co-sponsors, Rep. Zack Hawkins, D-Durham, said that the new law legalizes what has been happening in the state for many years.

“We know [sports betting] is happening in the dark, and this opportunity allows us to bring it into the light,” said Hawkins.

Cooper said that sports betting in the state would continue N.C.’s reputation as a “center” for college and professional sports, even going as far as stating that it will attract professional sports leagues to the state.

“We still got some holes we need to fill,” said Cooper on the potential for more professional teams.

Carolina Hurricanes’s General Manager Don Waddell openly supported the push to legalize sports betting, telling WRAL, “this is another way to encourage people to come out to [PNC Arena].”

What’s in the law

Currently, sports betting is only allowed at casinos operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Catawba Indian Nation.

Under the new law, N.C. will allow up to 12 online sports betting apps to operate within the state. Prospective interactive gambling operators must pay a $1 million application fee to apply for a state-issued wagering license, with additional $1 million renewal fees after five years. The state will tax operators an 18% privilege tax for their activities.

Eight sports venues, including Charlotte’s Spectrum Center, can apply for in-person sports books. Other N.C. venues allowed under the law are PNC Arena, WakeMed Soccer Park, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, Sedgefield Country Club, and Quail Hollow Country Club.

Multiple N.C. government departments will receive revenue gathered from taxes and fees. $2 million will go to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to fund gambling addiction treatment, while the N.C. Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council will receive $1 million annually to issue grants. $1 million will also go to N.C. Amateur Sports, a non-profit that sponsors amateur and youth sports initiatives.

Athletic departments of 10 state-run universities will also receive funding, each receiving $300,000 annually: Appalachian State, East Carolina, Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central, UNC-Asheville, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Pembroke, UNC-Wilmington, Western Carolina, and Winston-Salem State.

Remaining proceeds will be divided among the 10 universities; North Carolina’s general fund; and the newly created North Carolina Major Events, Games, and Attractions Fund. Under the administration of the state’s Commerce Department, the fund will provide grants to entities that “foster job creation and investment” surrounding major sporting events. HB347 names NASCAR races and major men’s and women’s golf competitions “major events.”

However, despite the plan outlined in the bill, Cooper made a political plea directed at Republican state legislators to increase funding for public education using state income gathered from sports betting.

“I urge the legislature to focus more on investing [and] funding public education,” said Cooper. “Our teachers, our students, our public schools need us.”

North Carolinians can expect to see legalized sports betting up and running in the first half of 2024.