Despite the fact that sports betting legislation in North Carolina passed more than two years ago, its first sportsbook didn’t open until last week. Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley opened their respective sportsbooks last Thursday, and residents can finally begin placing wagers. The opening of the first two sportsbooks in the state has already had a significant impact, and many believe that sports betting in North Carolina is just getting started. As sports betting in the state continues to grow, it is possible that sportsbooks like the two that opened last week could have a wide-spread impact that reaches across state lines, drawing bettors from throughout the southern United States.
Gov. Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 154 into law nearly two years ago. The bill granted the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians the right to operate sportsbooks at their two existing casinos. The bill allows for wagering on both collegiate and professional sports, as well as off-track racing. The passing of the bill meant that for the first time since the Supreme Court lifted the ban on sports betting in 2018, bettors in North Carolina could finally place wagers on sports, at least at in-person sportsbooks.
Over the past year, in-person sportsbooks throughout the world have been forced to close their doors as casinos and sportsbooks have been forced to impose strict guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These precautions are a large reason why North Carolina has had such a slow start in the sports betting industry. Now as the nation continues to roll out vaccinations and COVID-19 rates continue to improve, casinos and sportsbooks are slowly reopening with appropriate social distancing and sanitization plans in place. Now, sportsbooks like Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley can begin accepting bets.
North Carolina’s first sportsbooks opened just in time for the start of March Madness, which is one of the biggest sports betting events of the year. The new sportsbooks have already drawn a number of crowds interested in placing wagers, and their reach extends beyond state boundaries. Both the Harrah’s Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River are the closest legal sports betting options for Georgians. In fact, at the ribbon cutting ceremony for The Book at Harrah’s Cherokee, the first bet was placed by Atlanta resident Matthew Litsky.
The First Sportsbooks
The Harrah’s locations offer a number of unique features, and many residents will be relieved to finally visit them after the highly anticipated launch of sports betting in North Carolina. Harrah’s Cherokee Casino’s sportsbook is conveniently dubbed “The Book.” The Book is located approximately three hours west of Charlotte and officially opened on March 18. The casino and sportsbook offer a scenic view of the Appalachian Mountains, drawing visitors from neighboring states like Georgia and Tennessee. The casino and sportsbook sit along a creek on the tribal lands of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and boasts 1,108 rooms that go for $500 a night on a busy weekend. Now with the new sportsbook added, the casino plans to bring an additional 725 rooms later this year.
The Book includes a 90-foot ultra-high-definition screen and seven ticket-writer windows. Bettors will also be able to place wagers at 10 self-service betting kiosks. Located on the Upper Deck of the sportsbook, bettors will find reclining chairs and reserved seating in the Fan Caves where customers can enjoy the sportsbooks’ full beverage service.
Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River is located an hour west of the Cherokee location. This location offers its own enticing amenities, including a 32-foot, ultra-high-definition screen, four ticket writer window, and five self-service kiosks. Like its Cherokee counterpart, Valley River offers reclining chairs and full beverage service. Bettors can also enjoy bar top gaming and a lounge area that can be reserved for private viewing parties.
Now that the first two sportsbooks have opened in the state, many are wondering “What’s next?” Most recently, South Carolina-based Catawba Nation reached a compact with Gov. Cooper that gives them permission to build a casino near Charlotte. Many wonder if a sportsbook could eventually be worked into that deal. At this time, Cherokee officials are contesting the legality of this deal, so a sportsbook in the near future seems out of the question.
Relatively speaking, North Carolina is a bit behind the eight-ball when it comes to sports betting legislation. Nearly half of the states in the country have legalized sports betting, and many have already developed legislation for online betting options, begging the question whether or not North Carolina will add online sports betting as an option in the near future. This option is being actively explored by the North Carolina Lottery Commission, who studied the potential of online sports betting in 2019. At the time, a third party recommended that the commission take the responsibility of online sports betting in the state, but no concrete legislation has been passed at this time. For now, residents will have to settle with the two in-person sportsbooks that are available to them.