North Carolina Bill Allowing Sports Betting at Tribal Casinos Advances

Posted on: April 5, 2019, 03:55h. 

Last updated on: April 5, 2019, 08:24h.

A bill that would allow Indian casinos to offer sports betting and horse racing simulcasts has passed its first vote in the North Carolina General Assembly.

North Carolina state Sen. Jim Davis (R-Franklin) has filed a bill that would allow sports betting at tribal casinos in the Tar Heel State. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians run two casinos, both of which reside in Davis’ district. (Image: Sen. Jim Davis)

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Commerce and Insurance approved an amended version of Senate Bill 154. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Jim Davis (R-Franklin), has the support of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

The Cherokee tribe run two casinos in the western part of North Carolina. One is near the Tennessee border adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The other resides in Murphy, which is located in the southwestern corner of the state near the Georgia border.

Bill Backed by Key Leader

Davis, whose district includes the Cherokee reservation, filed his bill in February. The original version gave a simplistic definition of sports betting as the “placing of wagers on the outcome of professional and collegiate sports contests.”

The committee’s amendment added bets on horse races and limited betting only within Class III casinos on tribal lands.

Table games and slot machines and all those ancillary gambling opportunities are already legal in this state,” Davis told the Raleigh News and Observer earlier this year. “This just expands it to cover sports wagering already deemed to be legal. The Eastern Band has been incredibly vigilant, been good stewards of the money.”

On Friday morning, Davis told that estimates indicate sports betting would generate about $14 million for the tribe. The state would receive about $1 million in tax revenue, he said.

On the same day Davis filed the bill, a group from the EBCI, which also included the tribe’s leader, went to Raleigh and lobbied on behalf of the bill.

“Once passed, our two casinos will begin offering sports betting,” said Principal Chief Richard Sneed in a Facebook post that showed the delegation who made the trek.

The bill also has the support of state Sen. Phil Berger (R-Eden), the chamber’s president pro tempore.

Davis’ bill will now go to the Senate Rules and Operations Committee. That panel will hold a meeting on Tuesday to review the bill.

Sister Bill in the House

There is also a companion bill to Davis’ in the state House of Representatives. House Bill 302 contains the same language as Davis’ initial proposal.

The House Judiciary Committee has yet to hear the bill. However, it has substantial backing in the chamber. Among its four sponsors include House Majority Leader John Bell (R-Goldsboro) and House Majority Whip Kevin Corbin (R-Franklin). The bill also lists 20 lawmakers in the 120-member chamber as co-sponsors.

Harrah’s River Valley Casino resides in Corbin’s district.

The Tar Heel State soon could see another tribal casino open as U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) filed a bill last month that would allow South Carolina’s Catawba nation to open a $560 million facility in Kings Mountain near Charlotte.

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) also sponsor the bill.

In a statement, Graham said he filed the bill because the Interior Department has sat on Catawba’s application for four years.

“The Catawba Nation has been treated unfairly by the federal government, and our legislation rights that wrong,” said Graham.