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Ashley Westwood of Charlotte FC celebrates a win as we look North Carolina's failure to create a legalized iGaming industry
Ashley Westwood of Charlotte FC celebrates a win over Inter Miami CF at Bank of America Stadium on October 21, 2023. Photo by Matt Kelley/Getty Images via AFP.

The momentum that brought our best sports betting sites and a legal sports betting scene to North Carolina seems to have stalled with casino gaming legislation off the table, at least for now.

What it means for the state is that legalized real money online casinos likely won’t become a reality this year and perhaps next. It also means that iCasino customers will be forced to cross the border into Virginia, where mobile casinos seem to be popping up everywhere.

The reason? State House Speaker Tim Moore, once a backer of the legal commercial casino platform for his state proposed by Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, has backed off his stance and now opposes the legislation. 

The initial plan was to add a casino amendment to the 2024-2025 state budget, allowing residents to access mobile casino apps. This idea not only caused controversy among fellow Senate Republicans but also stalled before any hearings or debates were held.

Ultimately, bad blood from prior discussions may have spoiled any chances for a legal commercial gaming bill in the state for the foreseeable future.

Spillover hurdle

Public polling, a handful of lawmakers, and the overall popularity of the North Carolina sports betting apps market have all fueled the possibility of expanding the Tar Heel State’s legal gambling industry.

However, the initial talks about iCasinos and Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) being allowed in bars and restaurants in the state have left a sour taste in the mouths of many. Now, that taste has the potential to create roadblocks for any movement on the issue through the 2024 legislative session, which concludes at the end of July.

The issue surrounds Senate President Phil Berger apparently striking a deal with The Cordish Companies for gaming licenses tethered to multiple state casinos. Although the “back-room deal” aimed to keep tax dollars in the Tar Heel State, it was viewed as shady and void of any legislative or public input or oversight.

“Hard feelings,” according to House Speaker Tim Moore, threaten to derail any legal gambling expansion in the state this year.

According to Moore, "I think the conversation last year as it related to casinos could overshadow the discussion about updates to the lottery with VLTs.”

Results of that spillover

Support for expanding the legal gambling industry has started to fade despite the overwhelming success of the North Carolina sports betting scene.

Tim Moore, who once supported such a plan and championed it up until recently, is one such lawmaker who has essentially withdrawn his support for a gaming measure after blowback from Republican colleagues. 

The objections from Senate Republicans are centered around the fact that no public or legislative consultation has even been tabled so far

People like to be heard, and that isn’t happening in the North Carolina market.

Not dead yet?

On the surface, the chances of expanding North Carolina’s legal gambling platform this year seem to be in serious trouble, if not dead. 

But Phil Berger has left the door open to further discussion, saying, “If there are folks who decide it’s something they want to pick up and move with, we’ll see.” He did acknowledge, however, that momentum has stalled, and that little progress has been made on the legalization front.

Lawmakers have until the end of July and the current legislative session to get something done to bring iCasino gambling to the Tar Heel State. Optimism isn’t on the side of the iGaming proponents in North Carolina, although anything can happen between now and the end of the current legislative session.