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Legal Sports Betting in North Carolina

Daniel Smyth
North Carolina Sports Betting

Sports betting in North Carolina is legal and operational, but not in quite the same way it is in other states.

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While the likes of Delaware, Iowa, and Pennsylvania have an open system that allows private, public and tribal casinos to become 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 solely on tribal sports betting.

With Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel in his district, this was a natural move. As per the terms of SB154, tribal entities in North Carolina 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 in North Carolina.

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 proposed the formation of a local gambling commission. In practice, HB929 wasn’t going to introduce or expand on any North Carolina sports betting provisions.

What it aimed to do, however, was to bring sports betting and gaming under the control of a single entity. Additionally, Warren wanted a 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 match the terms of HB929 and skip a number of formalities and be put to a vote before the end of July 2019. That move worked as both SB154 and SB574 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, NC SB 574 was reworded before Governor Cooper signed it into law in September. A singular North Carolina Gaming Commission won’t be formed, instead, the North Carolina Lottery will hire a third-party contractor to study the effects of sports betting outside of tribal casinos. The due dates of that study are the same.

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 casinos and gaming companies are not allowed to offer sports betting.

The only two Cherokee-owned casinos that can open a sportsbook in North Carolina are both located on the western side of the state. This means sports bettors in cities such as Charlotte, Raleigh, and Durham will all have to drive three to five hours to bet on sports.

What are the available sportsbooks in North Carolina?

At the time of writing, the best sportsbooks in North Carolina are those hosted by tribal casinos. This is mainly because they are the only places allowed to have sportsbooks. However, as a guide, you can bet on sports at the following NC casinos:

  • Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort
  • Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Hotel & Casino

The Catawba Casino Project is still in the development phase, but is expected to open a sportsbook upon completion as well.

Since both Harrah’s locations are also owned by Caesars Entertainment, the sportsbooks located within each location are branded as ‘The Book’ and provide similar odds to other Caesars properties. 

Both locations opened just one day before the start of the 2021 March Madness tournament.

What are the top 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 regulators deem it to be a worthy and safe investment.

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 the 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.

HB929 had other challenges to go through before it could get passed. The language from that bill was stuffed into SB574 since that bill already passed through the Senate and could expedite its chances of being signed into law.

August 2019 – SB574 underwent significant changes and language for a North Carolina Gaming Commission was taken out. The State Lottery was instead put in charge of partnering with a third-party company in order to study the effects of expanding North Carolina sports betting statewide.

September 2019 – SB574 was finally signed into law by Governor Cooper on September 4, 2019.

March 2021 – The signing of the bill in 2019 meant that an updated tribal compact had to be signed with the governor and the tribes and had to be approved by the federal government. That approval came at the start of March 2021 and on March 18th, both Harrah’s Cherokee casino locations opened their sportsbooks to the public.

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.  Since SB154 simply adds sports betting and horse racing to the types of games that tribal casinos can offer, many assume sports betting will be taxed at the same rate as other casino games.

Can I bet on sports online in North Carolina?

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

Can I bet on the North Carolina Tarheels or bet on the Duke Blue Devils?

Yes, with sportsbooks in North Carolina open you can bet on either team as well as collegiate sports teams in other states. The law does not contain any specific restrictions when it comes to betting on collegiate athletics.