North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed an amended gaming compact with the Eastern Band or Cherokee Indians on Tuesday, setting the stage for legal sports betting in the Tar Heel State.
Cooper then submitted the compact to the US Department of the Interior for approval. This starts a 45-day window for the Department’s assistant secretary for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to approve the changes.
That lines up with the possibility of North Carolina sportsbooks opening by the Super Bowl.
However, the compact sets up regulatory requirements for sports betting and requires verification of internal controls that could push back the start date.
The compact does not authorize the tribe to accept any wager through a mobile device or through the internet.
Long road to legal North Carolina sports betting
In July 2019, Cooper signed into law a bill passed by the North Carolina legislature. The law added sports wagering and horse betting to permitted Class III games for the Eastern Band.
The tribe operates Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort is in Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River in Murphy. The resort property draws many patrons from Knoxville, the closest major metro area at about a two-hour drive away.
But the state and tribe needed to renegotiate their tribal gaming compact to include the new gaming types. That proved more difficult than expected.
Rep. Kevin Corbin, who sponsored the bill as the casino properties are in his district, previously told PlayTenn that the holdup was because the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) was resisting additional restrictions the state wanted to put on how the tribal casinos reported their operations.
The following language that made the compact appears to be at the center of the delay:
The State and Compliance Committee shall, upon 24-hours advance notice to the Tribal Gaming Commission, have the right to inspect all premises on which Class III Gaming is conducted and the right to inspect and copy, during normal business hours, all tribal records relating solely to Class III Gaming, including, without limitation, any background checks available for Class III Gaming employees. … Should a third party request disclosure from the State of any of the Tribe’s confidential and proprietary records or the information derived from such records, the State shall promptly notify the Tribe in writing of such request and provide the Tribe with an opportunity to object to such disclosure.
North Carolina and Cherokee finalize compact
The coronavirus pandemic also played a part in delaying compact negotiations.
Last week, the Cherokee One Feather reported that the EBCI Tribal Council had approved the compact.
After signing the compact, ECBI Principal Chief Richard G. 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.”
The compact establishes that the tribe must pay the state $191,000 in the first year to cover additional expenses the state will incur relating to sports and horse wagering. There’s an annual increase of 3.7% thereafter.
North Carolina sports betting rules and regulations
The bill passed by the legislature did not include any regulations for the tribe to conduct sports betting. The legislature left that for the tribe to work out with the governor in the compact.
Details of North Carolina sports betting provided in the compact include:
- Sets that the Certification Commission and the Compliance Committee will have oversight over sports and horse wagering.
- Specifies that allowable sports wagering does not include wagering on Olympic events.
- The tribe must supply a quarterly report to the Compliance Committee with respect to integrity of sports and horse wagering.
- Sports and horse race wagering must satisfy the National Indian Gaming Commission, Class III Minimum Internal Control Standard.
- The tribe must cooperate with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation on enforcement of regulations relating to sports wagering.
- No sports wager may be accepted unless the outcome of the event and the score of the event is reported in newspapers of general circulation; in the official, public records maintained by the appropriate league or governing body; or in other common media outlets (including, but not limited to, ESPN).
Before Harrah’s sportsbooks may begin to take wagers, they must:
- Let the Certification Commission and governor approve that geolocation and age identity verification procedures fully ensure that the wager is being placed by someone age 21 or older on tribal land, the identity of the person placing the wager is verified by the tribe, and all data relating to the transaction is kept for a minimum of one year.
- Have all equipment, devices and technology relating to sports and horse wagering receive approval and certification from the Tribal Gaming Commission, Certification Commission and an independent, third-party laboratory.
Cherokee casinos could take bets by Super Bowl
Harrah’s already constructed sportsbooks at the two Cherokee properties.
Brooks Robinson, CEO of Harrah’s Cherokee, previously told PlayTenn that the sportsbooks will be ready to open soon after the compact is signed.
On Wednesday, he added: “We are working on our timeline and will be glad to share once confirmed. [It] would be nice to make it in time for the Super Bowl.”
According to Cherokee One Feather, Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise attorney Ann Davis said she hoped sports betting would be up and running by the Super Bowl, but “I wouldn’t hold your breath though.”
She explained that covid and the administration change could cause the Department of the Interior approval to take a while.
Getting Certification Commission and governor approvals and verifications also could take time.
But the compact agreement finally means that sports betting is on its way to North Carolina tribal casinos.
Here is the compact in full: