After Long Wait North Carolina Sports Betting is Finally Underway
- The legislative process achieving sports wagering in North Carolina was a slow, long one
- Cherokee Sportsbook & Casino Resort is quite impressive, planning for more expansion
- A major component missing in NC is online betting while being evaluated for the future
Many hurdles needed to be crossed and much planning was carefully performed, but twenty months after passing through North Carolina legislatures, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino’s The Book is now officially open for sports betting.
Both the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and the River Valley Casino in Murphy host a sportsbook, making them the first legal sports betting venue in North Carolina. Of the two locations, the sportsbook at Cherokee offers expansive seating areas, 90 feet of television screens, VIP seating, and other customer comforts. The Book opened to the public last Thursday.
Cherokee is Impressive
Cherokee is located approximately three hours west of Charlotte, and Murphy, an additional hour west. The casino at Cherokee is in a picturesque setting where the opening of sports betting in the North Carolina mountains is designed to draw sports fans and additional gamblers from Charlotte, Atlanta, eastern Tennessee, and elsewhere to this small town of 2,000 residents that sits on tribal lands of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
The large, evolving casino complex built along a creek has 1,108 rooms, which can go for $500+ on select weekends, and is adding an additional 725 rooms as part of a project to be completed later this year. Since the casino opened in1997, a tourist industry has grown up around the town, with new hotels and restaurants.
General manager Brooks Robinson believes Harrah’s Cherokee Casino now offers the complete package for anyone looking for a first-class casino hotel getaway resort experience.
We are really right on par with any casino in Vegas. I truly believe we could set this resort on the Las Vegas Strip, and we could compete with anybody. The number of hotel rooms, the number of slot machines, table games and now with the sportsbook, we just have everything available to our customers.
First Bet Long-Time Coming
As part of the sports betting ribbon-cutting ceremony for North Carolina, the first official legal bet was made in Cherokee by a guest named Matthew Litsky, who wagered on the NCAA Tournament for North Carolina to upset Wisconsin. Unfortunately, Mr. Litsky could not cash that ticket as the Badgers beat the Tar Heels by 23 last Friday evening.
However, that seemed like a victory compared to the long and painful legislative process North Carolina sports bettors have endured waiting for the opportunity to wager. The US Supreme Court overturning PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) in May 2018 surely did not open up a next-day opportunity for the state.
Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed reviewed the long process.
We passed a resolution in Council to run legislation through North Carolina. We got the legislation run through North Carolina and did a compact amendment. The negotiation for the compact amendment took an entire year. It shouldn’t have, but it did.
In July 2019, the North Carolina State House and Senate passed N.C. Senate Bill 154. Governor Roy Cooper signed it this month as well, but there were still questions to negotiate.
Chief Sneed had issues with Gov. Cooper’s recommendations and reflected on the outcome:
I suppose you really would have to ask the Governor’s legal team as to what the hold-up was. We’ve been involved in Class 3 gaming for over a decade. We have a very extensive and comprehensive Class 3 gaming compact with the State already. In the opinion of our legal team, we were simply adding one more Class 3 gaming amenity. So, all of the frameworks were already in place. All guidelines and regulations were already in place. We were simply adding one more game. To me, it was political. But that’s just my opinion.
A Major Component Still Missing
This project came as a partnership through the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), Caesar’s Entertainment, and William Hill, one of America’s premier sports betting companies. Robinson also mentioned that Caesar’s Entertainment is purchasing William Hill soon.
The obvious gap still missing for the state is the opportunity for online wagering. Especially currently when COVID-19 is pushing the threshold in most states over 90% of wagering for sports betting of those that have both options.
Chief Sneed added this comment on the subject of online wagering:
We would love to have the opportunity to do online or mobile gaming, that’s something that’s going to have to be worked out at the state level as well. Under IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act), all gaming must take place on Tribal trust lands. We could geofence the Boundary and offer mobile sports betting. We would love to be able to participate state-wide, and we’re looking into that. But that’s going to be something that we have to do through the State legislature and obviously something that would have to be approved by the Governor as well.
Robinson agreed and said it will be a complex process to achieve but well worth the investment. It is expensive to geofence an area and many within the state are determined to evaluate the right process.
In assessing the situation, most in North Carolina are happy steps have been made to bring sports wagering to the state and have confidence more improvements will be on the way into the future.
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Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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