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North Carolina becomes 7th state to legalize sports betting in 2019

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The Tar Heel State took a big step Friday by legalizing sports betting at their two tribal casinos.

After Gov. Roy Cooper signed S 154 into law last Friday, North Carolina officially became the seventh state to pass a sports betting law in 2019. The new law classifies sports betting under the tribe’s authorized list of Class III games.

The two casinos, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel are the only two gambling establishments in North Carolina, both operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee.

The previous six states to legalize a form of sports betting this year are New Hampshire, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, and Tennessee.

How the bill was legalized could be considered one of the best overtime finishes of the year.

First, there was an amount of confusion surrounding S 154 and the similar H 929. The latter is a House bill that can establish a gaming commission to conduct further study of sports gambling in North Carolina.

Due to the misunderstanding, S 154 stalled in committee the last few months. But after Gov. Cooper vetoed the state budget proposal for not including a Medicaid expansion, NC lawmakers were required to return to session.

With the added time, S 154 supporters Rep. Kevin Corbin and Sen. Jim Davis threw their last Hail Mary.

Earlier this month, S 154 passed House committees and the House floor before members voted 88-27 in favor of the bill July 15. The Senate passed the bill 43-7 in April.

After explaining that S 154 would not conflict with H 929 because the bill was not a wide-range expansion of gambling — it only would allow two tribal casinos the ability to offer an additional way to wager money — S 154 was able to finally reach the governor’s desk.

However, North Carolina only legalized sports betting on the casinos’ grounds, meaning state residents will not have immediate access to online and mobile sports betting.

Although NC did not include online betting in their framework, the law allows wagers on all professional and collegiate sports in the state. New Jersey, for example, has mobile sports betting but residents may not place bets on in-state college athletics.

The two casinos in North Carolina are located in small towns on the western edge of the state; Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel in Murphy.

Charlotte is the closest big city to the casinos, roughly three to four hours from both locations. While the distance could be an issue similar to New York’s upstate casino dilemma, the state still expects to generate $1.5 million annually for the state.

North Carolina is not the only state to make moves in the sports betting arena recently. The Indiana Gaming Commission distributed nine temporary licenses to six casinos and three off-track betting parlors before sports betting officially launches September 1.

Iowa is also working on sports gambling regulations. If the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission agrees on guidelines this week, the state could allow sportsbooks to launch in mid-August.

The main goal for states that are currently legalizing sports betting is to launch the framework before the start of the NFL season. The first regular-season game is Thursday, September 5 between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.

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