Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos To Welcome Sports Betting In 2021

Posted on December 8, 2020

North Carolina tribal casinos may soon offer sports betting and off-track horse race wagering.

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel plan to integrate brick-and-mortar sportsbooks by early 2021.

The properties will name both sportsbooks The Book.

Harrah’s Casinos pave the way for North Carolina sports betting

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper set a tribal-state gaming compact amendment in motion with an agreement made last week.

The emergency resolution permits sports and off-track horse race wagering in two casinos operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). EBCI Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed originally submitted the resolution.

EBCI’s Tribal Council concluded its regular session on Thursday, Dec. 3 by unanimously approving the amendment.

Gov. Cooper will now receive the compact for signature. The US Dept. of the Interior receives it next for a 45-day comment period and approval.

Once rubber stamped, The Book will be cleared for action in both Harrah’s locations.

The state of North Carolina will regulate these sportsbooks.

The Book gears up for early 2021 launch

Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise attorney Ann Davis is optimistic for a launch by the end of January. However, she notes administrative changes and ongoing COVID-19 regulations as realistic timeframe inhibitors.

Since the pandemic’s onset, casino operations have diminished drastically. The ECBI tribe sees these additional wagering options as an integral source of income.

Chief Sneed said,

“We are excited to immediately begin implementing sports betting at our gaming properties. COVID-19 has negatively impacted funding for critical community services within our Nation, so we welcome this new diverse revenue stream. The addition of these new services is a positive step towards a more stable and secure future for our Tribal members and government operations.”

Currently, the two Harrah’s locations are the only casinos operating in North Carolina.

Legislators recently approved plans for an additional casino. The Catawba Indian Nation will operate Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort.

As the state’s only federally-recognized tribe, the ECBI staunchly opposes the new project. The introduction of a competitor will put its long-established state dominion in jeopardy and further reduce casino capital.

North Carolina’s sports betting future

Casinos have legally operated in North Carolina since January 1995, when the state’s first interim casino opened.

It wasn’t until July 2019 that a bill was set in motion to legalize sports betting and horse race wagering within North Carolina tribal casinos.

Online betting, on the other hand, is still restricted to daily fantasy sports and lottery games.

If North Carolina’s first attempt at sports betting is successful, the state could sanction further expansion efforts.

A study of sports wagering, approved by the North Carolina legislature in 2019, was recently conducted by Spectrum Gaming. The subsequent report recommended that the North Carolina Lottery establish and operate online wagering and brick-and-mortar sports betting locations itself.

In general, states with lottery-operated sports betting markets generate significantly less handle than states with multiple operators.

For instance, the DC Lottery, which operates in conjunction with a single sportsbook, reported $1.2 million in total handle in the first two months after launch.

On the other hand, the Tennessee Education Lottery regulates multiple Tennessee sportsbooks, and bettors in the state wagered $27 million during the first week alone.

The Book at Harrah’s will offer an initial glimpse at the desire for sports betting in North Carolina.

Photo by Associated Press
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Alec Cunningham

As a college athlete, Alec Cunningham played Division II golf at Tusculum University. She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Professional Writing. She then returned to her love of written word in 2000 after working in the music industry as a concert promoter, tour manager and artist developer. As a journalist, she's covered a variety of topics and currently specializes in Tennessee online sports betting and Virginia casino news. She served as a panelist at this year's All American Sports Betting Summit, discussing the ever-evolving role of women in the gambling industry.

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