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Sports betting is officially legal in North Carolina.
Gov. Roy Cooper signed S 154 into law on Friday, making his state the seventh to pass a sports betting bill this year. The new NC sports betting law allows the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to operate retail sportsbooks at two casinos in the Appalachian Mountains.
A separate bill aimed at studying a statewide implementation is also near the finish line, though its fate remains uncertain.
The Cherokee tribe holds a monopoly on gambling in North Carolina, a privilege that now extends to sports betting. The new law adds sports wagering to the tribe’s list of authorized Class III games.
Apart from the location restriction, the framework for NC sports betting is a good one.
The lack of a licensing process should make the regulatory logistics relatively painless, and lawmakers chose not to impose any additional burdens on the operation. There is no integrity fee in the NC sports betting law, nor any prohibition against booking action on specific teams or events. The legislature turned down a midsession proposal to ban betting on in-state collegiate teams.
The bill from Sen. Jim Davis enjoyed bipartisan support along the way, although it disappeared from view for months midsession. It was a good sweat, with the House waiting until overtime to consider the measure.
The passage is good news for Caesars, which operates the two tribal properties — Harrah’s Cherokee and its sister property, Valley River. The latter is located across the mountain from the Cherokee in the small town of Murphy.
Any sports betting law that limits wagering to retail locations is somewhat incomplete.
Lessons from early-adopting markets like New Jersey underscore the importance of online and mobile betting. More than 80% of all NJ sports betting is conducted via computers and smartphones, bolstered by commuting customers from neighboring states.
New York might have legal sports betting upstate, but mobile sportsbooks just across the border still represent a better option for downstate residents. The situation is equally lamentable in North Carolina.
Harrah’s Cherokee is three hours from the nearest major city — Charlotte — and close to 90 minutes from a regional airport. While the property does see brisk traffic from visitors, it is not the easiest place to access. It may not ever have a mountain monopoly on sports betting.