North Carolina Sports Betting Bill Gets Approval From the Legislature

  • Governor Roy Cooper has 30 days to sign the bill into law
  • No veto is expected in view of bipartisan support and a lack of controversial elements
  • Sports betting will become available at the state's two tribal casinos
  • A bill to set up a North Carolina gaming commission is also under consideration
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The newly approved North Carolina sports betting bill will allow the state’s two tribal casinos to operate sportsbooks.

Sports betting approval

The House has voted in favor of having legal sports betting in two tribal casinos in North Carolina. This comes following a vote of 90-27 in favor of passage.

The facilities in question are the Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel and the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort.  The two casinos are operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Sports betting is now a category three activity, allowing the North Carolina tribe to offer it to visitors. 

There is no allowance for any form of online or mobile sports betting.

The next step is for Governor Roy Cooper to sign Senate Bill 154 into law. There is a 30-day window for the Governor to put pen to paper, and the bill sponsors are confident it will be signed as it enjoys bipartisan support.

Met with resistance

Representative Julia Howard attempted to amend the bill before it got approval. She was seeking a change which would stop sports betting on all types of college events. However, this was met with stern opposition.

The bill’s sponsors argued that college sports are massively popular at North Carolina institutions such as the University of North Carolina and Duke University. Getting rid of college betting would cut off over half of the expected revenues from the tribal casinos. 

Happy parties

While the Senate gave their approval for the bill back in April, the introduction of another bill slowed down matters. House Bill 929 called for a study to be conducted before legalizing sports betting. Ultimately, the sponsors of the two bills came to an agreement to support one another. 

Senator Jim Davis and Representative Kevin Corbin were the main drivers of Senate Bill 154, as the two tribal casinos are located in their own districts. After the bill got approval, Senator Davis said: “I’ve been a champion for expanding gaming opportunities for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for years.

[The casinos] have been a great economic generator for the Western region of our state, and I’m happy to play a small part in the good they do.”

Another bill under consideration

House Bill 929 is currently under consideration by the Senate. This would see the creation of the North Carolina Gaming Commission, followed by the task of studying the effects of sports betting in the state. It would also look at the steeplechase sector and the effects of opening up sports betting to the Cherokee Nation. 

Such a commission will not have the authority to regulate or oversee tribal gambling. However, it would oversee the current forms of legal gambling in the state outside of tribal control, including bingo, boxing, lottery, and raffles.

The North Carolina Gambling Commission would also be at the forefront of any future expansion of gaming laws in the state. The initial version of the bill had an inclusion for regulating daily fantasy sports, but this was left out of the final bill.

The bill’s main sponsor, Representative Harry Warren, spoke about the reasoning behind this study: “I’m trying to put the horse in front of the cart to establish a committee and have it do a study that would be able to report to our existing Joint Legislative Lottery Oversight Committee on the impacts and feasibility of expanding and allowing sports betting in North Carolina.”

The preliminary findings of the study are due in February 2020, and the final report will be issued in April 2020. 

Gambling in North Carolina

North Carolina has traditionally been conservative when it comes to gambling. Gambling laws in the state date all the way back to 1749.

The state lottery has only been in operation since 2006, allowing residents to participate in draw games and scratch cards. They can also participate in multi-state lotteries such as Mega Millions. Non-profits can host raffles and bingo games. 

There are just two tribal casinos that are under the control of the only tribe with federal recognition in North Carolina. There is also a high-stakes bingo facility, which has been in operation since 1982.

It was in 1994 that the tribe got approval to develop a casino, which opened its doors in November 1997. Table games were first offered there in 2012.

The other casino only started its operations in September 2015. Video poker was once extremely popular in the state, but a ban came into effect in 2007. 

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