North Carolina Left Behind As Tennessee Debuts Sports Betting

North Carolina Left Behind As Tennessee Debuts Sports Betting
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There is no question the expansion of gambling in the U.S. has been spurred by the irresistible inclination to keep up with the Joneses. In other words, when states introduce casinos — or more recently, sports wagering — that becomes a major factor in nearby states’ decisions to follow suit.

But unlike the implication of the old “keep up with” cliché, the motive regarding state-licensed gambling isn’t merely about appearances and status. Rather, it’s about important public policy issues of economic impact, jobs and tax revenue to better serve the interests of citizens.

North Carolina finds itself in that position of a state being left behind, something that was underscored over the weekend as its neighbor to the west, Tennessee, began sports wagering that’s unique, at least in the U.S. Even without actual casinos or bricks-and-mortar store fronts, Tennessee saw online-only sports wagering debut on Nov. 1 with four operators and more lining up.

RELATED: Tennessee online-only sports betting market is open for business

The specifics of Tennessee’s sports gambling have drawn some criticism because of a mandated hold of 10% that many consider too high but still, it is available to anyone who is simply within the borders of the Volunteer State. The grand opening took on a festive tone. For instance, as a welcoming gesture to new customers on opening day, one sports gambling website refunded losing bets on the home team Titans, who were upended by underdog Cincinnati.

In addition to Tennessee sitting to the west wooing sports gambling dollars from North Carolinians willing to hop in their cars and make the drive, Virginia — just north of the border — is also on the cusp of starting online sports gambling. That will pose still another opportunity for Tarheel State bettors to take their wagering dollars elsewhere and help finance a neighboring state’s budget.

Check Out: Latest updates and legal Tennessee Sports Betting Sites.

NC Sports Betting Process Stalls

To be clear, North Carolina has begun the process of getting onboard with sports wagering, both in a retail setting and online, but the process has bogged down on both fronts.

North Carolina’s two casinos in the western part of the state owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are approved for sports betting but the actual opening of the sportsbooks has been delayed as compact terms are hammered out with the state.

A study regarding online gambling and sports wagering was approved by the North Carolina legislature and the North Carolina Education Lottery commissioned Spectrum Gaming of New Jersey to prepare a report. The state lottery forwarded the findings of the study to the appropriate legislative committee members but so far, there’s been no significant public comment on that study.

Lottery-Run Markets Have Problems

Among the details is a recommendation that sports wagering be operated by the North Carolina Lottery both online and by using the best performers in its existing network of retail outlets. At the retail outlets, bettors would place wagers using self-service terminals.

As we’ve seen across the U.S., lottery-run sports-betting operations — D.C., Montana and Oregon come to mind — have had numerous issues and have not had near the success of sports-betting markets with multiple operators.

“Spectrum projects that, the state could generate net revenues of approximately $32 million in the first year and $104 million in the fifth year, totaling approximately $396 million in the first five years of operations,” the lottery said in its report of the study. The lottery went on to say if it “merely regulated and licensed commercial gaming operators, the net revenues to education would be significantly less.”

The findings the lottery shared with legislative committee members also broached the topics of iGaming and even the introduction of commercial casinos.

Even though Spectrum delivered the study to the state lottery months ago, there’s been no substantial comment from elected officials regarding those recommendations, presumably as politicians wait for the dust to settle from the election.

In the meantime, the hypothetical nine-figure revenue numbers that the lottery touts from the sports gambling study are actually zero dollars as long as the lethargic pace in North Carolina continues. And Tennessee will welcome any North Carolina betting money that makes its way across the state line.

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