How Did North Carolina Sports Betting Get to this Point?

How Did North Carolina Sports Betting Get to this Point?

As the legislature gets ready to return and take up a mobile North Carolina sports betting bill, we take a look at the recent history of gambling in the state.

SB 688, allowing for online sports betting in the state, passed the Senate last year, but stalled in the House. The bill would also increase the number of brick-and-mortar locations that can have sports betting, with professional sports stadiums and arenas given priority in the bill.

The bill is expected to be taken up by the House during a shortened session in a few months.

The original bill will likely have some amendments, including the tax rate on operators. Gov. Roy Cooper, who said recently that it’s time for legal mobile sports betting in the state, indicated that he would like to see the state get a bigger share.

Here’s how North Carolina got to this point:

NC Gambling Timeline

November 1997

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort opens in Cherokee, little more than an hour west of Asheville on the eastern outskirts of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Aug. 31, 2005

After a close vote in the North Carolina House in April, a bill to create the North Carolina Education Lottery passes in the State Senate. The vote is so close, Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue has to break the tie. Gov. Mike Easley signs it into law.

March 30, 2006

The North Carolina Lottery starts selling tickets. Powerball sales begin two months later.

Sept. 28, 2015

Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino opens in Murphy, in the southwest corner of North Carolina, closer to Atlanta and Chattanooga than to Charlotte.

May 14, 2018

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, opens the floodgates for states to choose for themselves whether they wish to legalize sports betting.

July 26, 2019

After big wins in the House and Senate, Gov. Roy Cooper signs a bill allowing for tribal lands to legally start taking bets on sporting events. It will be nearly two years before the first sports bet is taken.

January 2020

Cooper makes a revenue-sharing deal with the Catawba Indian Nation with the expectation that a large casino will be built in Kings Mountain, in the southern part of the state a little more than 30 miles due west of Charlotte. The Cherokee tribe is not pleased and vows to fight the new casino.

November 2020

Online sports betting goes live in neighboring Tennessee.

January 2021

Online sports betting goes live in neighboring Virginia.

March 18, 2021

Partnering with Caesars, “The Book” sportsbook opens at the two North Carolina Cherokee casinos and the first sports bets in the state are placed.

April 7, 2021

The North Carolina Senate puts forth a bipartisan bill, introduced by Republican Sen. Jim Perry and Democratic Sen. Paul A. Lowe Jr., allowing for the expanded legalization of sports betting in the state, with 10 to 12 mobile licenses to be issued as well as online licenses for tribal casinos in the western part of the state.

July 2021

The Catawba open a makeshift facility to get the dice rolling, while construction continues on the Two Kings Casino Resort, a build budgeted at close to $300 million. The Catawba, a South Carolina-based tribe, continue to face challenges from the Cherokee about a casino in North Carolina. Sports betting is still not allowed at Two Kings.

August 2021

With a narrow vote in favor, the North Carolina Senate passes SB 688, allowing for online sports betting in the state. The bill would also increase the number of brick-and-mortar locations with professional sports stadiums and arenas given priority.

September 2021

SB 688 goes to the House Committee on Commerce where it waits to see if it will be approved for a House vote.

November 2021

SB 688 passes the House Committee on Commerce 12-4. Next up, approval by the House Judiciary Committee.


The bill is expected to come before the House this year, most likely when lawmakers return for a short session in mid-May, and supporters believe it has the votes to pass. Cooper is in favor of the bill, telling News & Observer sports reporter Luke DeCock, “(Sports betting) is here, whether we like it or not.”

It is estimated that North Carolina could bring in more than $20 million in additional tax revenue from legalized gambling, but one of the topics to be discussed will be the low tax rate in SB 688. Neighboring Tennessee is taxing adjusted gaming revenue at 20%, while neighboring Virginia’s rate is 15%. In SB 688, the tax rate is only 8%.

RELATED: Commentary: 3 Changes to Ensure Passage of North Carolina Sports Betting Bill

Cooper told DeCock on his ACC Now Podcast, that he believes “there needs to be more state tax dollars involved in this, a bigger cut for the people.”

To summarize: You can bet on sports at two North Carolina Cherokee casinos that are far from any of the state’s largest cities and online betting is not yet legal. There should be a fair amount of travel into Virginia and Tennessee during March Madness.



Howard Gensler
Journalists / Reporter

Howard Gensler is a veteran journalist covering the North Carolina sports betting market for Before his focus on US sports betting, Howard worked at the Philadelphia Daily News, TV Guide and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Howard is also a founding editor of

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