North Carolina Senate Overwhelmingly Approves Sports Betting for Tribal Operators

Posted on: April 11, 2019, 05:10h. 

Last updated on: April 11, 2019, 05:10h.

On Tuesday, a North Carolina sports betting bill received an emphatic thumbs up from the State Senate, moving one step closer to establishing legal sports books in the state – or at least in one tiny corner of it.

North Carolina sports betting
North Carolina sports betting bill sponsor Jim Davis addresses a Senate hearing on the legislation last week. He believes a North Carolina sports betting market would be worth $14 million per year to the state’s two tribal casinos. (Gerry Broome/AP)

Sen. Jim Davis’ (R-50th) bill would permit casinos run by Native American tribes to offer sports wagering on professional and college athletics.

But since the state currently has only one federally recognized tribe, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, its two Harrah’s-branded casinos – owned by the tribe and operated by Caesars Entertainment on the Cherokee reservation in the western North Carolina – represent the state’s entire gaming industry.

Since the bill does not propose any form of mobile gaming, with wagering confined to within the two casinos, this is gambling expansion writ small, and relatively non-controversial, which is perhaps why it sailed through the Senate with bipartisan support in a 43-7 vote.

Cherokee Success

Davis, whose district includes the Cherokee reservation, emphasized that gaming has been a success story for the Cherokee, which has used revenues to transform the community by funding social programs and building a hospital.

The state gets about $11 million a year in revenue-share payments and Davis believes sports betting will generate around $14 million in extra revenue for the Cherokee, which equates to around $1 million for the state.

Table games and slot machines and all those ancillary gambling opportunities are already legal in this state,” Davis said during a Senate committee meeting last week. “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.”

Not everyone so is enthused. North Carolina college athletic director Bubba Cunningham told The News Observer last week that he opposes betting on amateur sports due to integrity concerns, adding that he would be “working with the NCAA on the issue.”

Meanwhile, the conservative Family Policy Council has also voiced concerns, predicting the bill will eventually lead to further gambling expansion.

Catawba Tribe Wants In  

The council may even be onto something. Earlier this month, Republican US Senator for South Carolina Lindsey Graham introduced a bill to Congress that, controversially, would take land into trust land for the South Carolina-based Catawba Indian Tribe for the construction of a $560 million casino in King’s Mountain, North Carolina.

The tribe has historical connections to southern North Carolina and fought with Patriot militias against an army loyal to the British Crown at the Battle of King’s Mountain during the Revolutionary War.

Its dream of a King’s Mountain casino would swell North Carolina’s casino sector — and any future sports betting market — by 33 percent.

Meanwhile, the Cherokee have branded the idea a “modern day land grab” and a “federal government bully tactic.”