The impending launch of online sports betting brings an exciting new meaning to March Madness for North Carolina this year. In less than one month, adult residents across the state can finally place legal wagers through North Carolina sports betting apps and websites. Even better, those 21 and older can begin registering accounts with their favorite licensed operators in just two weeks, right in time for college basketball’s biggest tournament.

With the official March 11 commencement date fast approaching, many North Carolinians already immerse themselves in research to identify the best sportsbooks. Our expert team at dug into the data to uncover local betting interests. Utilizing Google Trends, we analyzed search volume for license applicants over the last 90 days to pinpoint the most popular sportsbooks aiming to launch in North Carolina.

DraftKings and FanDuel Lead the Pack

The heavyweight showdown for top spot came as no shocker. Industry leaders DraftKings North Carolina and FanDuel edged out the competition, mirroring their neck-and-neck battles for market share across legal betting states. The sports betting juggernauts took first and second place respectively in North Carolina search interest.

ESPN BET and Bet365 Show Promise

Tied for third place, ESPN BET and British powerhouse bet365 demonstrated emerging mainstream appeal amongst North Carolina sports fans. As a recently launched product of sports media giant PENN Entertainment, ESPN BET enjoys built-in brand recognition from personalities and nonstop promotion across TV, radio, web, and print outlets. Strategic partnerships also bolster credibility, like ESPN’s team-up with sports podcast giant The Volume and sports merch retailer Fanatics.

Meanwhile, across the pond, bet365 carefully crafts its North American expansion after dominating the United Kingdom’s bustling gambling industry for over two decades. The operator sports early momentum State-side, recently inking market access deals in Louisiana, Colorado, and now North Carolina. Bet365 also boasts strategic partnerships, like its newly announced alliance with North Carolina’s own NBA franchise Charlotte Hornets.

Established Brands Bring Up the Rear of the Pack

Behind the top four, several established sportsbook operators with strong name recognition rounded out our top eight search rankings. Caesars Sportsbook took fifth place, no surprise given its existing brand familiarity in North Carolina. Caesars already runs retail sportsbooks at two Harrah’s Cherokee casinos, operated by the state’s Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Hot on their heels, quickly growing sportsbook BetMGM claimed sixth place. Further expanding its national footprint, BetMGM also partners locally with Charlotte Motor Speedway. Next came daily fantasy turned sports betting operator Underdog Sports in seventh, an impressive feat for the New York based start-up entering North Carolina as its first sports betting market. Lastly, the newest contender Fanatics Sportsbook still turned heads in eighth, as the online sports retail giant continues spreading its wings in mobile gambling.

March Madness Sportsbook Licenses Still Not Approved

While launch buzz escalates, the North Carolina State Lottery Commission has yet to formally approve any sports wagering operator licenses. However, all signs point to imminent decisions. On Monday, Commission Deputy Executive Director Sterl Capenter updated the regulatory agency’s Sports Betting Committee that eight of nine license applicants now appear primed for the March 11 opening.

Capenter stopped short of naming specific operators. But based on public partnerships and our interest data, one can reasonably speculate DraftKings, FanDuel, ESPN BET, Bet365, Caesars, BetMGM, Underdog Sports, and Fanatics lead the pack. As launch day draws nearer, expect license approvals and announcements shortly.

Use Promos Now to Prepare for March Madness Wagering

While final regulatory approvals wrap up, North Carolina sports fans can use this time to research the coolest sign-up promos planned for launch. All operators will look to make big splashes with enticing bonuses around March Madness tip-off. Whether taking advantage of no-brainer free bets or odds boosts, savvy bettors turn these temporary deals into cold hard cash.

Bookmark as your insider source for first-looks at North Carolina sportsbook promos. Once launch day comes, we’ll also provide the critical rankings, reviews and analysis for picking the right sportsbooks for your needs.

✅ Updated on February 24, 2024 by Frank Sutton