North Carolina on Friday became the latest state to legalize sports betting, albeit on a limited basis, according to the multiple news reports. Gov. Roy Cooper signed the bill, which will let two tribal casinos in the remote western part of North Carolina begin legal sports betting.
A more comprehensive gaming bill, which would create a statewide Gaming Commission, was widely expected to pass out of the Senate and onto the governor’s desk early last week, but it was delayed until at least Aug. 4.
The sports betting bill that Cooper signed, SB 154, applies to just the Eastern Band of Cherokee casinos – the Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort in the town of Cherokee and the Harrah's Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel in Murphy.
The casinos offer live poker and slots plus other gaming options already. Now they can add sports betting options including off-track horse racing betting, though the timetable to implement those additions is uncertain.
“People are excited about it, (especially) for a lot of folks that haven’t done sports betting besides office pools,” Eastern Band Principal Chief Richard Sneed said, according to an Associated Press report, about the prospect of sports betting before the bill reached Cooper.
But the Tar Heel State offers no mobile options at this point, a sure sticking point for sports betting advocates in North Carolina. In New Jersey, the most successful state to adopt legal sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ban on the practice outside of Nevada in 2018, an estimated 80 percent of sports wagers come from mobile and online users.
Another barrier for most North Carolinians wishing to bet on sports is the distance they’d have to cover to reach either tribal casino. The casino in Cherokee is about 170 miles from the state’s largest city, Charlotte, and about 300 miles from the capital in Raleigh. Murphy’s facility is even more distant – more than 230 miles from Charlotte and about 350 miles from Raleigh.
According to data from worldpopulationreview.com, none of North Carolina’s 10 largest cities are a convenient distance from either casino.
The other bill in North Carolina, SB 574, would not legalize widespread sports betting per se but would create the framework to help make it possible. A broad state Gaming Commission would bring several existing regulatory bodies together.
The proposal initially passed the Senate, then the House, by wide margins. But last week when the Gaming Commission bill came back before the Senate for consideration of a few House amendments, the Senate opted to send it back to the Judiciary Committee. The delay seems unusual because the measure passed the Senate 44-1 the first time around and passed the House 86-26 on July 11.