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NC’s first legal sports betting spots are open

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Photo courtesy of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort

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Two new sports betting venues opened to the public on Thurs., March 18. Located at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel in Murphy, the venues are known as The Book and are offered by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) in partnership with Caesars Entertainment + sports betting company William Hill.

The news comes almost three years after the US Supreme Court struck down a law that banned sports betting in most states and nearly two years after Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 154 into law, which allows the EBCI to operate sportsbooks (a.k.a., establishments that take bets on sporting events and pay out winnings) at their two casinos. There, folks can engage in in-person sports gambling, including professional + collegiate sports like the NCAA basketball tournament — as well as on off-track horse racing. Officials say the delay is due to both finalizing an amendment to the gaming compact and the pandemic.

In addition to live poker, video-style games, and slot machines, folks can now place bets at ticket-writer windows + self-service betting kiosks. The Book at Cherokee’s Casino Resort offers seven ticket windows, 10 kiosks, a 90-foot high-definition screen, and reclining chairs. Visitors can also reserve private VIP rooms known as “fan caves” for intimate group events.

The smaller Murphy location features four ticket windows, five kiosks, a 32-foot screen, reclining chairs + an additional lounge area for private group viewing. COVID-19 safety protocols, including social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks are in place at both locations. DYK: these two casinos generate 8% of all wages and 5% of all state jobs.

Now that sports betting venues have legally opened, some folks are curious how long it will be until other sportsbooks open in the state. The South Carolina-based Catawba Nation reached a compact with Gov. Cooper in January that would allow gaming at a casino that the tribe plans to build near Charlotte. The EBCI is contesting the legality of the Catawbas to build a casino in NC.

Similarly, others are wondering when online sports betting will become legal. NC’s current laws ban virtually all forms of online gambling, but the North Carolina Lottery Commission studied the issue in 2019 at the behest of the state legislature. A third party that compiled the report recommended that the lottery commission run any online operations.

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