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North Carolina on the Verge of Legal Sports Betting
July 29, 2019

North Carolina on the Verge of Legal Sports Betting

By: George Calhoun

In April, I spoke to the North Carolina Bar Association concerning the future of sports betting in the state.  At the time, a bill to legalize sports betting was making its way through the legislative process.  Last week, the North Carolina legislature finally passed a bill authorizing sports wagering at the state’s two Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian casinos.  The bill explicitly adds sports betting to Class III games offered by the Cherokee.  The Governor signed the new bill into law on Friday.

As I discussed in April, the bill provided only a very limited sports wagering in North Carolina. The new law offers no mobile or off-site betting.  Bettors will need to travel to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort or Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel to place a bet.  Both casinos are located in the Appalachians in southwestern North Carolina and are closer to Knoxville, Tennessee than they are to Charlotte or Raleigh.  The Cherokee are partnered with Caesar’s which is now an experienced mobile sports betting operator.  They could transition easily to a mobile-wagering marketplace, which would greatly expand the scope and availability of sports wagering for North Carolina bettors.  Such an expansion also would likely result in significantly increased revenue for the state.

In the meantime, while the new law is great news for the two tribal casinos, it isn’t likely to move the needle for sports betting in North Carolina from either a consumer or state-coffer standpoint.

The North Carolina legislature doesn’t seem to be done yet.   Still under consideration is a bill to create a “North Carolina Gaming Commission” and task it with studying sports betting.  That bill is in the Senate for concurrence and has been placed on the July 22 calendar.  While it is tasked with studying only sports and steeplechase, legalizing other forms of gaming will be substantially easier once a regulatory control body is in place.  At a minimum, the creation of a gaming commission appears to be a likely first step towards a broader legalization of sports gaming in the state.

For now, North Carolina is dipping its toes in the water to keep pace with the dozens of other states that have passed or are considering sports betting legislation.