After a frustrating year and a half, it seems that sports betting in the US state of North Carolina is, at last, moving forward, albeit slowly.
Sports betting has, in fact, been legal in North Carolina for over a year. The problem is that so far, there has been no progress on implementation and effectively no legal means to bet in the state.
Back in July 2019, state governor, Roy Cooper, signed SB 154 that legalized sports betting. The bill gave the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians the right to operate sportsbooks at both of their North Carolina-based casinos. But that was only the first step in bringing in the new sports betting era in the state. The new legislation also needed an amendment to the existing tribal compact, which had to be approved both by Cooper and the US Department of the Interior.
The coronavirus pandemic caused further delay in that process, but last week, it was reported that the Cherokee Tribal Council, at last, gave permission for the amendments to go ahead.
Despite the progress made this month, it seems that sports betting fans in North Carolina are more likely to be able to bet for the first time on college basketball’s March Madness events rather than the Super Bowl at the end of January.
The first of the remaining hurdles involves Gov. Cooper signing the new compact. So far, there has been no indication from the Governor’s office on when he might sign it. Even when he has put his name to the document, there remains the second hurdle to be cleared. There is no indication that the Department of the Interior will block the tribal compact amendments. However, their normal processes require a 45-day period during which changes can be proposed.
At this stage, there is no sign that the Department would consider shortening that time frame, and only once it has cleared this process will it be published in the Federal Register as official.
Everything else, it seems, is in place to launch the new sports betting sector. According to reports, the construction of the two sportsbooks has been completed, and the recruitment of key personnel is already underway. Officially there is no confirmation of which partner the casinos will be used to provide their sports betting service, but it is possible to make an educated guess.
The Cherokee run their two North Carolina casinos through a licensing agreement that gives them the right to use the Harrah’s brand, part of the Caesars Group. Caesars recently agreed on a deal to acquire the US arm of UK bookmaker William Hill, which is set to provide all the sports betting services across the Caesar’s network. That surely puts William Hill in a prime position to earn the right to offer sports betting in the state.
Unfortunately, North Carolina won’t be permitting mobile sports betting, and that could lead to problems. Both of the state’s casinos are some distance from major centers and are situated in the southwest of North Carolina. One is around three hours out of Charlotte, but only two hours south of Knoxville, Tennessee, while the other is two and a half hours away from Knoxville.
So, crossing the border to bet in Tennessee could be an easier option for many of the state’s residents. Meanwhile, sports betting customers in the North will soon be able to cross over to Virginia, which is on schedule to launch its mobile sports betting sector next month.
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