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The Daily Tar Heel

North Carolina legalizes online sports betting ahead of ACC men's basketball tournament


The North Carolina State Lottery Commission voted unanimously on Wednesday to launch legalized online sports gambling in North Carolina beginning March 11 — the night before the Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament.

House Bill 347, called Sports Wagering,  which Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law last June, permits individuals at least 21 years old to wager online for professional, collegiate and amateur sports and horse races. 

Some experts are concerned that the law could make college students vulnerable to developing gambling addictions because of the significance sports have on college campuses.

The announcement came several years after the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association — which struck down a federal law originally banning sports betting within most U.S. states. In the wake of the ruling, over two dozen states passed laws permitting sports gambling, with North Carolina now the 30th state to legalize online sports bets.

In-person sports betting is currently restricted to three casinos located on Cherokee and Catawba tribal lands.

With online sports gambling set to be legalized in March, up to 12 online sportsbooks, including online applications from the Cherokee and Catawba nations, may now become available for gambling.

James Whelan, the executive director of the Tennessee Institute for Gambling Education and Research said he thinks younger cohorts are especially susceptible to gambling disorders due to the prevalence of advertising and higher using of technology like smartphones

Whelan said students who gamble problematically are more likely to have difficulty completing classes, drop out of classes and contemplate dropping out of school. There are also correlations between gambling and mental health disorders, he said.

“The idea of placing bets is just not a hard thing to do,” Whelan said. “One, you have a belief you could be good at it. The second thing is it’s easy to do. You don't have to drive somewhere.”

Rosa Li, a professor in the UNC department of neuroscience and psychology, said gambling, like substance abuse disorders, can activate specific reward activation pathways involved with cues or cravings. She said that pathological gambling, called gambling disorder, has recently been listed as a condition for future study in the DSM-5, a handbook for mental health practitioners.

“That's the American Psychological Association saying we should be on the lookout for this as a potential problem,” Li said. “Therefore, we should be devoting resources to studying it better and determining if it warrants becoming kind of a full-fledged disorder that we put in the official full handbook.”

Christopher Mclaughlin, a professor at the UNC School of Government said allowing people to engage in sports gambling may encourage the possibility of gambling addictions developing among young adults, including college students. However, the new sports gambling law is relevant due to its potential to be a new revenue source for the state, he said.

One of the arguments for the law was the presence of gambling tax revenue in Virginia and Tennessee — states that border North Carolina and already legalized online sports betting.

“The numbers are many, many billions,” Mclaughlin said. “If you look simply at Virginia, a state that is a little smaller but roughly similar in size to North Carolina, there were over $5 billion of bets legally placed in Virginia in 2023.” 

The N.C. General Assembly's Fiscal Research Division estimated that about $64.6 million in revenue will be generated for the state within the first year of the law’s implementation. 

While Whelan said he thinks gambling can be a form of enjoyment for its users, he also said there may be downsides regarding the rapid growth and remote aspect of online sports betting because of the lack of regulations.

“We don't know what safeguards are needed around advertising," he said. "We don't know how to promote safety elements around that — gambling is a risk-taking behavior and we need to know what safeguards are needed.”

@dailytarheel |

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