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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has worked as a writer and editor more than 20 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel.

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North Carolina legalizes sports betting

29 Jul 2019

By Gary Trask
Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 154 into law on Friday.

Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 154 into law on Friday. (photo by NCDOTcommunications)

Sports betting became legal at two tribal casinos in North Carolina owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians after Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 154 into law on Friday.

North Carolina becomes the 19th U.S. jurisdiction to authorize sports betting since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 was declared unconstitutional in May 2018.

Construction of the new sportsbooks at both locations will begin immediately and is expected to be completed by late fall. Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort will open a temporary location in what is currently Sound Bytes at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center, while The Book at Harrah's Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel will be located near the promotions stage.

“This is an exciting time,” said Brooks Robinson, regional senior vice president and general manager of Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos. “We continuously work to offer new experiences and opportunities to our customers and are confident that our new sportsbook will be an added delight for our guests and sports fans.”

While the bill will exclusively allow the two Harrah's properties, which are operated by Caesars Entertainment, to offer sports betting – including collegiate sports wagers, both in and out of state – it is relatively limited.

First off, it categorizes sports and horse racing betting as Class III gaming, meaning they are restricted to tribal lands only. It also does not have a provision for online or mobile wagering, which have been wildly popular and lucrative in Nevada and New Jersey, where they have accounted for 80% of the handle since the Garden State introduced sports betting last year.. Additionally, the two casinos, located about 55 miles apart in the southwest portion of the state, sit a five-hour drive from the state capital, Raleigh, and four hours from Charlotte.

In fact, the two properties are much closer to Atlanta (122 miles) and Chattanooga and Knoxville (about 100 miles). Of course, Tennessee sports bettors are already lining up to bet online after their state became the first to pass a mobile-only bill back in April.

Still, it has been estimated that revenue from adding sports and horse betting at these locations could generate between $1 million and $1.5 million annually for the Tar Heel State.
The bill was introduced in February by State Sen. Jim Davis and passed in the State House 90-27 on 15 July, after passing the House Senate 43-7 on 9 April.

“It demonstrates the relationship that exists on a government-to-government level between the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the state legislature in Raleigh, which also really mirrors the government-to-government relationship that we have on the federal level," Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Richard Sneed told Cherokee One Feather. "If you make a comparison, it’s easier to get a bill through in Raleigh than it is in D.C. Things are so polarized in D.C. right now, it’s very difficult to get anything approved.”

Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, added in a statement, “Legalizing sports betting in North Carolina is a welcome step in the fight against the dangerous, illegal market. Providing North Carolinians with legal alternatives to illicit offshore operators will help safeguard consumers and the integrity of the games, advance responsible gaming initiatives and give state and federal law enforcement an advantage in combating illegal gambling.”
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