This story was updated at 8:50am on April 13 to include the name of the architecture firm that provided renderings.
Update: You’ll be able to bet on sports in North Carolina starting at 10am on Thursday, March 18. You just have to drive to far-western reaches of the state.
Driving the news: On Wednesday afternoon, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians on announced the opening The Book, a sports betting venue, at its Harrah’s casinos in Cherokee and Murphy.
- Sports betting became legal in North Carolina with a bill that Governor Cooper signed in mid-2019. But it’s only legal at these two physical locations with “sports books.”
What they’re saying: Richard Sneed, Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, said the opening of a sports book in the Tar Heel State affords residents a chance to participate in safe and legal sports betting for the first time.
“We are excited to offer legal sports betting at The Book, and just in time for March Madness,” Sneed said.
Each sports book will have a lounge area, large HD screens, full beverage service, self-service kiosks, among other amenities. The menu and odds will be similar to what guests would find in Las Vegas, Harrah’s says.
That happened fast: As of Wednesday morning, when we first published this story, the last word we’d heard from Kelci Coker, a spokesperson for Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos, was that there was still a bit of work to do with the National Indian Gaming Commission before the two sports books can open.
- “We currently do not have a defined date for opening, but are prepared to open The Book at Cherokee and Murphy as soon as final approvals are received. We are hopeful that the process will conclude soon,” Coker said.
Closer to Charlotte, the Catawba Nation in January signed a gaming compact with the state of North Carolina for their Vegas-style casino underway in Kings Mountain. The compact will allow sports betting and other gaming, reports the Cherokee One Feather. [Go deeper]
Why it matters: The launch of retail sports betting could usher in an expansion of sports gambling statewide. Legalizing sports betting could inject millions in tax revenue into state coffers, as it’s done in other states.
- In New Jersey, legalization has been an economic boon. Last year, the state hit $6 billion in sports wagers, generating $65.1 million in state and local taxes.
“If the political situation changed, I could see (North Carolina) doing what everyone else is doing. We’re just sacrificing tax revenue,” said UNC Charlotte economist Craig Depken.
Zoom out: Resistance to legalizing gambling has long been part of North Carolina’s Bible Belt identity. The state was one of the last on the East Coast to enact its own lottery in 2006.
North Carolina’s initiation of sports betting at select casinos could open the door next to statewide legalization of mobile sports betting, according to The Action Network.
Charles Gillespie, a Charlotte native and CEO of Gambling.com, said he’d “give it better than 50% chance” the state legislature passes mobile sports betting this year.
- Gambling.com is a marketing company that has its headquarters in Charlotte. Gambling.com is like Hotels.com, but instead of helping users comparison shop for hotels, it pairs them with sites online to gamble.
Gillespie and his colleagues are optimistic about the future of sports betting in North Carolina. That’s why they moved the company headquarters to Charlotte, with plans to grow significantly in the near future.
One big reason that Gillespie is hopeful about online betting in North Carolina? Nearby states like Virginia and Tennessee have legalized it.
“There’s a real neighbor effect to these things,” Gillespie said.
It’s unclear whether there are any current efforts underway in the North Carolina General Assembly to legalize mobile sports betting. But there could be: Over the next few weeks lawmakers will file hundreds of bills ahead of the filing deadline.
Panthers and Charlotte FC owner David Tepper is among the vocal advocates for expanding sports gambling in the Carolinas. During his first press conference as owner in 2018, Tepper said sports betting could generate tax revenue for needs like teacher pay.
“Eventually it’s going to hit North and South Carolina,” Tepper said of sports betting. “It has to, from a revenue standpoint.”
- Through a spokesperson, Tepper declined to comment for this story.
In-venue sports betting would also be a lucrative revenue stream for team and stadium owners, says Depken, the UNC Charlotte economist.
- Last year, Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., home of the Wizards and Capitals, became the first pro sports complex in the U.S. to open a sports book.
- The arena has seven ticket windows and 10 kiosks for placing bets.
“I could see how states with multiple pro sports franchises could move sooner rather than later,” on expanding legal sports betting, Depken said.
Wake up smarter with the Axios Charlotte newsletter. Subscribe here.