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The Waiting Game Continues For North Carolina Tribal Sportsbooks

The two North Carolina tribal sportsbooks at Harrah’s have been waiting months to open their doors, but that wait will soon be over.

Legal Tennessee sports betting first launched last November. However, you can only place a wager on mobile devices and computers at one of the state’s four online sportsbooks.

More online sportsbooks will launch in Tennessee, but the way residents bet on sports will not change. Online will continue to be the only option.

However, for some in the state, an alternative might arise in the near future. Those who live close to the North Carolina border can soon visit the state’s two tribal casinos to place sports bets in person.

That’s because the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and North Carolina have recently come to an agreement regarding their tribal-state compact, paving the way for the sportsbooks at the Cherokees’ two properties to begin accepting bets.

Tribal-state compact finally amended

At North Carolina’s two Cherokee-owned casinos, sportsbooks have already been built and have stood poised to open for some time already.

Both the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee River Valley Casino in Murphy are ready to start taking sports wagers as soon as they receive the go-ahead to do so.

Both readied their sportsbooks following the passage of a North Carolina law allowing the tribe to add sports betting and horse wagering to its list of authorized Class III games.

The law only allows sports betting on site at the two casinos.

But no one has been able to place bets at the two Harrah’s properties yet, despite NC Gov. Roy Cooper signing the new law way back in July 2019.

The tribal-state compact had to be amended to accommodate the new law. Various issues have delayed the process. These include conflicts over regulatory requirements on the sportsbooks’ operation and reporting, as well as problems caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, after more than a year of negotiations, the two sides were able to reach an agreement. The tribe approved the amended compact in early Decemeber 2020, and Gov. Cooper signed it two weeks later.

There had been hope that sports betting would launch in time for Super Bowl LV, but that did not happen.

For one thing, the agreement still required final approval from the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In addition, the state still needs to finalize the complete list of regulations for sports betting. North Carolina lawmakers have left those details up to the tribe and Gov. Cooper.

Meanwhile, Cherokees object to potential third NC casino

It remains up in the air exactly when sports betting will begin at Harrah’s NC properties, although it should happen soon. The Cherokees certainly would like it to be sooner rather than later.

As the tribe pushes forward on sports betting, it also has a separate matter on its radar involving Gov. Cooper and another recently-signed tribal-state compact.

Two weeks ago, Cooper signed a compact with the Catwaba Indian Nation based in neighboring South Carolina. The compact allows the Catawbas to offer Class III gaming at a planned-for Two Kings Casino Resort in Kings Mountain, NC.

Ground has broken at the site, located two-and-a-half hours west of Cherokee and about a half-hour east of Charlotte. The Catawbas’ compact also needs approval from the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In March 2020, the Dept. of the Interior approved the Catawbas’ land in trust of 16 acres in Kings Mountain. The Cherokees object to the legality of the SC tribe opening a casino in NC, and have taken their objections to court in order to try to prevent it.

The Catawbas have said they hope to open an initial “introductory facility” as early as this fall. Whether that happens remains to be seen.

In any case, expect sportsbooks at the Cherokees’ casinos to be open for business before then, and likely this spring.

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