There are four forms of legal gambling in North Carolina. The oldest is charitable gaming, which includes bingo and raffles. This started in 1945. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians negotiated a gaming compact with the governor of North Carolina in 1997 to initiate casino gambling. In 2005, the state legislature approved a state lottery.
Gaming at Cherokee started with video poker, electronic table games and slot machines that required some skill. A 2013 gaming pact expanded gaming at Cherokee to live table games. The state legislature approved sports betting in 2019. The two Harrah’s Cherokee casinos in the state immediately constructed sportsbooks. Mobile wagering was not part of the sports betting law in North Carolina.
There are two form of legalized gambling that appeared and were later banned. One is video poker. It was phased out after voters approved a state lottery. However, these games led to the creation of the Cherokee’s video poker hall, which later became a full-scale gaming resort in the Smoky Mountains.
The other form of past legalized gambling in North Carolina was greyhound racing. It was approved in 1939 and repealed in 1954.
Today, legal North Carolina gambling consists of:
- State lottery: Scratch-off and lotto tickets sold at retailers
- Bingo and raffles: Available only at registered charities and on Cherokee tribal land
- Tribal casinos: Slots, video poker, live table games and electronic table games on two Cherokee reservations
- Poker: Live poker at Harrah’s Cherokee resort
- Sports betting: At both Cherokee casinos in the state
Legal North Carolina Gambling Sites and Apps
North Carolina Online Gambling
There are no forms of legal online gambling in North Carolina that are open to all. The North Carolina Education Lottery allows players to buy lotto subscriptions with preapproval through a subscription service for specific games.
However, daily fantasy sites accept players from the state. The two largest and most reputable DFS sites in North Carolina are:
Brick and Mortar Casinos in North Carolina
There are two land-based casinos in North Carolina. Both are on reservations belonging to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
The original casino is in Cherokee. It started out as a video poker hall and is now a massive gaming resort after several expansions that included adding an entertainment complex, multiple hotel towers and tens of thousands of square feet of gaming space. The other Cherokee casino is just east of Murphy and is substantially smaller than the original Cherokee casino. Both cities are in far western North Carolina in the Smoky Mountains.
The casinos are about one hour apart off US 74 on opposite sides of the Nantahala National Forest. Each uses the Harrah’s branding. The original casino in Cherokee is called Harrah’s Cherokee. The one outside Murphy is called Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River. These are sister casinos. However, each offers separate promotions and mailers as if they are separate.
North Carolina casinos are permitted to spread a full menu of games. This includes slots, video poker, live table games and electronic ones. Sports betting is also allowed.
There are many live table games available at both Cherokee casinos. These include craps, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, Three Card Poker, Big Wheel, Ultimate Texas Hold’em and Crazy 4 Poker. These tables were permitted after a gaming pact expanded the casino’s offerings to live table games. The original agreement only allowed electronic games.
Harrah’s Cherokee offers two VIP high limit rooms. Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River only has just four table games and some slots in its small high limit section.
North Carolina Sports Betting
Legislation passed in 2019 authorized retail sportsbooks at tribal casinos.
Licensed casinos may accept wagers on any professional or collegiate event other than the Olympics. This includes all forms of betting, including parlays, teasers, and other exotics. Each casino promptly constructed a sportsbook after the bill was signed into law.
Mobile sports betting has not yet been authorized, but there is a decent change that changes in the future as neighboring states authorize online sportsbooks. In states that have mobile and in-person wagering, mobile betting accounts for upwards of 80% of all wagers placed.
North Carolina Poker
Harrah’s Cherokee is the only place in North Carolina with a poker room. Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River also has the authority to launch a poker room but has chosen not to due to lack of demand.
The poker room at Harrah’s Cherokee originally used Pokerpro electronic tables due to the lack of a gaming pact permitting live tables. In 2013, when Harrah’s Cherokee was permitted to roll out live poker tables, the casino did not have enough employees available in the area to do it. It operated as a hybrid live and digital room for about two years when the last Pokerpro table was removed. The poker room is entirely live tables these days.
North Carolina Poker Rooms
- Harrah’s Cherokee: 20 tables – 15 weekly tournaments, 1/2 and 2/5 no limit Hold’em and pot limit Omaha cash games – 777 Casino Drive, Cherokee, NC 28719
Are Home Poker Games Legal in North Carolina?
Article 37, 14-292 of the North Carolina General Statutes states that poker games may only be played at the two tribal casinos in the state. There is no social gaming law in North Carolina. This means that home poker games are illegal even if the games are played at a residence and there is no rake.
North Carolina Daily Fantasy Sports
There is no law in North Carolina that addresses daily fantasy sports. A bill failed in 2019 that would have expressly legalized and regulated it. However, it failed in the legislature. Major daily fantasy sports operators accept players from North Carolina. These companies include DraftKings, FanDuel and Fantasy Draft.
North Carolina Horse Racing Betting
Off-track betting is legal in North Carolina at the state’s two tribal casino. However, neither offers this form of gambling currently. Mobile betting on horses is not legal in the state.
North Carolina Esports Betting
There are no specific laws that address esports betting. The 2019 sports betting law does not address it at all. Presumably, that means participants may bet among themselves and observers cannot.
North Carolina Lottery
Voters approved a constitutional amendment to create a North Carolina State Lottery in 2005. It took a tiebreaking vote by the lieutenant governor in the senate and the absence of two senators that opposed it to pull it off.
The first scratch-off ticket was sold on March 30, 2006. Two months later, tickets for lotto drawings were first sold. Keno was added later, which holds a new drawing every four minutes.
The North Carolina Education Lottery offers a hybrid of ticket sales between live and online. Players cannot technically buy lottery tickets online. It requires a preapproval process where players can buy up to four tickets per week for up to a year. The only games available through this service is Carolina Cash 5, Powerball, Mega Millions and Lucky for Life.
The following lotto games are available through the North Carolina Education Lottery:
- Pick 3
- Pick 4
- Carolina Cash 5
- Mega Millions
- Lucky for Life
North Carolina Skill Games
Games of skill are legal in North Carolina. Gambling is defined as a game of chance, according to North Carolina Code Chapter 14, Section 37 14-292.
Except as provided in Chapter 18C of the General Statutes or in Part 2 of this Article, any person or organization that operates any game of chance or any person who plays at or bets on any game of chance at which any money, property or other thing of value is bet, whether the same be in stake or not, shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. This section shall not apply to a person who plays at or bets on any lottery game being lawfully conducted in any state.
This is looser than how it is codified in other states. This makes more games fall under skill than in many other jurisdictions. Players should feel comfortable participating in contests with an entry fee if there is a reasonable level of skill involved.
Online skill games are legal in North Carolina. All major operators of these games accept players from the state. This includes WorldWinner and WPT Online.
Skill-based gaming machines are approved for use at both Harrah’s casinos in North Carolina. The games are active on floors at these properties.
North Carolina Gambling Laws
North Carolina law only permits a state lottery, tribal casinos and charity gaming for fundraising. Tribal casinos may offer a full slate of games, including slots, video poker, table games, poker, sports betting and off-track betting on horses.
The following entities regulate gambling in North Carolina:
North Carolina Education Lottery Law
The North Carolina Education Lottery was created through legislative action on August 30, 2005. It was the last state on the East Coast without a lottery.
The approval of the lottery was controversial. Most conservatives and some progressives opposed it. However, on the date it passed the senate, two lottery opponents were absent. The state senate rushed to a vote that tied at 24. The lieutenant governor broke the tie with a yes vote and Governor Easley signed the bill into law. The bill passed the house months earlier.
The North Carolina Education Lottery is permitted to run any numbers game. This includes lotto and keno games. Scratch-off tickets may also be sold.
In 2009, limited online sales were launched. Only interstate lotto drawings and the state’s Cash 5 game may be purchased there. There are many limitations to this that include the ability for players to only purchase four tickets per week, receive preapproval from the lottery and to purchase a subscription that buys the tickets week after week, up to one year at a time.
Lottery funds must go to education, according to the law that passed. However, that has not always been the case. In 2009, the state raided the lottery’s reserves of $38 million to balance the budget during the Great Recession.
North Carolina Tribal Casino Law
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians operate two casinos in the state. This is done through a partnership with Caesars Entertainment. The Harrah’s brand is used at both casinos. One is in Cherokee. The other is in Murphy. Both cities are in extreme western North Carolina and draw from population bases in Georgia and Tennessee.
The first agreement with the state was created in 1994. Video poker was already legal in the state at the time. This allowed Cherokee to open a video poker parlor with about 500 machines without having to enter into an official gaming pact.
In 1997, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians negotiated a gaming compact with the state. This allowed Cherokee to expand the game offerings to include slots that required skill and electronic table games. This created the first resort casino in the state.
In 2013, a new gaming pact was negotiated. This permitted traditional slots, live table games and poker at Harrah’s Cherokee. The tribe would later acquire land about 50 miles west of the main casino. It was placed into trust and recognized as tribal land. This allowed the Cherokees to open a second casino in the state under the same gaming pact near Murphy using the same rules and tax requirements. The tax rate on table games at Cherokee casinos is eight percent.
North Carolina Charitable Gaming Law
Bingo was first approved by the state in 1945. It was only permitted for charities recognized by the Internal Revenue Service. Raffles were later added to the mix.
Bingo halls may only hold two games per week. The maximum single win allowed is $500. The maximum prize pool for an evening is $1,500 if two bingo sessions are offered in a week and $2,500 if there is only one. The North Carolina Bureau of Investigation enforces charity gaming in the state.
North Carolina Online Gambling Laws
Online gambling is not permitted in the state. However, the state lottery does sell tickets to four lotto games on its website under the condition that it is part of a subscription service.
North Carolina Poker Laws
North Carolina only permits poker at its tribal casinos. Currently, live poker is only offered at Harrah’s Cherokee. Home poker games are illegal in North Carolina. Online poker is, too.
North Carolina Sports Betting Laws
In 2019, the North Carolina Legislature approved sports betting in the state through SB 154. It may only be offered at Harrah’s Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River. Mobile betting is not permitted. Wagers on all professional and collegiate sports are allowed. This includes in-state colleges. All types of sports bets are legal.
North Carolina Horse Racing Laws
The same 2019 law that permits sports betting also legalized off-track betting at tribal casinos. No off-track betting parlors are open at these casinos. Mobile betting on horses is illegal.
In 1939, live greyhound racing was legalized in North Carolina. This was repealed in 1954.
North Carolina Sweepstakes Games and Video Poker
North Carolina authorities fought gray area gambling for decades. In the 1990’s, South Carolina outlawed video poker. This drove machines across the state line. At the time, North Carolina permitted video poker and keno through its loose gambling definition. Keno was only allowed if a player could exhibit skill. Keno machines in the state asked players if they wanted to double the bet after half the numbers dropped.
Video poker players could not get paid cash. The maximum win was $10 in merchandise or gift cards. This was widely abused. In 2000, North Carolina required the registration of all video poker machines and banned the importation of new devices.
Video poker operators skirted this system by changing serial numbers when machines would break, claiming newer machines were older ones. The maximum number of machines permitted at one business was three. Businesses got around this by creating multiple businesses in the same building.
Video poker was required to be ancillary and not a majority part of a company’s revenue. To get around this, owners rang up fake products and claimed revenues to be legitimate sales.
The state finally had it with these games. In 2006, the legislature banned video poker. The law allowed three years to phase the games out. The legal limit of devices went from three to two after a year, then two to one after another. After the final year, all video poker machines were banned.
This was not successful. Operators constantly found ways around the law. This included coming up with sweepstakes schemes and selling internet time where players could win more. Winners could sell back time won on the games.
More than a decade after the video poker ban was created, the state and operators are still fighting over the games in court. Each time the state wins at its supreme court, owners find a new angle to work around the ruling.