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Legal Sports Betting in North Carolina

Daniel Smyth
Bet on the Charlotte Hornets at legal North Carolina sportsbooks. (Image: Goheels.com)

Current Sports Betting Status: Legal

Sports betting in North Carolina is legal, but not in quite the same way it is in other states. While the likes of Delaware, Iowa and Pennsylvania have an open system that allows private, public and tribal license holders, North Carolina doesn’t. To get Senate Bill 154 (SB154) over the line in 2019, Rep. Kevin Corbin and Sen. Jim Davis focused on tribal sports betting.

With Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel in their district, this was a natural move. As per the terms of SB154, tribal entities in North Carolina would have the ability to offer legal sports betting from inside their casinos. Despite a late attempt to have betting on college sports removed from the bill, that option remained in place. What hasn’t been legislated for, however, is online and mobile sports betting.

To get SB154 passed by the House and Senate, Davis had to keep the bill’s scope fairly narrow. Why? Because of a North Carolina sports betting House Bill known as HB929. Introduced by Rep. Harry Warren, this bill proposes the formation of a local gambling commission. In practice, HB929 doesn’t introduce or expand on any North Carolina sports betting provisions. What it does aim to do, however, is to bring sports betting and gaming under the control of a single entity. Additionally, Warren wants the newly formed North Carolina Gaming Commission to study the impact of sports betting. Pending the results of the study, non-tribal (i.e. private) NC sportsbooks could become legal.

To ensure they didn’t block each other’s efforts, Davis and Warren agreed to support each other. In fact, Davis repurposed an existing Senate Bill (SB574), so it could skip a number of formalities and be put to a vote before the end of July 2019. That move worked as both SB154 and HB929 passed crucial votes before August. The former was subsequently sent to Governor Roy Cooper’s desk for final approval. With that, North Carolina sports betting became legal. However, until the NC Gambling Commission completes its review (expected by April 2020), sports fans will have to use the state’s tribal casinos.

North Carolina Sports Betting Timeline

Although Davis hoped SB154 would be the first sports betting bill passed in 2019, it didn’t quite work out that way. Due to the submission of HB929, things became a little more complicated than expected. However, after some discussions and a dose of cooperation, North Carolina bookmakers were finally given the green light on July 26, 2019:

February 2019 – SB154 is introduced and passes its first reading on February 28.

March 2019 – After being referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate, SB154 was withdrawn but later submitted to the Commerce and Insurance Committee.

April 2019 – A positive vote by Commerce and Insurance allowed SB154 to go back to Rules and Operations of the Senate. Once entered on the calendar, it passed a second and a third reading. This allowed it to pass back-and-forth between the two previous committees for further discussions.

At the same time SB154 was progressing, HB929 was introduced. Passing a first reading on April 22 before being referred to the Committee on Commerce, it then moved the House Substitute and Judiciary Committees in May.

June 2019 – More movements between committees occurred in June, both for SB154 and HB929. Eventually, they were both put to a vote in July.

July 2019 – Both HB929 and SB154 passed their respective chambers on July 15 and 16, respectively. On July 26, Gov. Cooper signed SB154, making sports betting in North Carolina legal. With HB929 also receiving positive votes, a new gaming commission will now assess the viability of non-tribal sports betting within the state.

Where Can I Bet on Sports in North Carolina?

Once SB154 was signed into law, tribal casinos in North Carolina were given the ability to host their own sportsbooks. In practice, this means residents can use any tribal venue to wager money on sports. However, what they can’t do (at the time of writing) is use online or mobile sportsbooks.

Additionally, private casino and gaming companies are not allowed to offer sports betting. Importantly though, this may change once the North Carolina Gaming Commission completes its assessment and produces an official report.

What are the best legal sportsbooks in North Carolina?

At the time of writing, the best sportsbooks in North Carolina are those hosted by tribal casinos. As with all newly regulated states, things take time to set up correctly. However, as a guide, you should be able to bet on sports at the following NC casinos:

  • Catawba Casino Project at Kings Mountain
  • Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort
  • Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Hotel & Casino
  • Cherokee Tribal Bingo

What are the top legal online betting sites in North Carolina?

SB154 doesn’t contain any provisions for online sportsbooks in North Carolina. However, this may change if the local gaming commission deems it to be a worthy and safe investment.

North Carolina Sports Betting FAQ

What is the legal sports betting age in North Carolina?

To bet on sports in North Carolina, you need to be 21 or older.

What is the North Carolina sports betting tax rate?

At this point, a sports betting tax rate for operators hasn’t been set.

Can I bet on sports online in North Carolina?

No. Unless the North Carolina Gaming Commission pushes for change, you won’t be able to use mobile or online sportsbooks in North Carolina.