• Senate Bill 154 would legalize sports betting and other casino gaming in North Carolina.
  • The proposal would limit sports betting to physical Class III venues on tribal lands.
  • There is no current provision for online or mobile betting.

RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina lawmakers are one step closer to legalizing sports betting in the Tar Heel State. On Wednesday, the bill – SB 154 – was amended, approved, and passed out of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Insurance.

As amended, SB 154 is officially summarized as “an act to enable wagering on sporting events and horse racing on tribal lands in accordance with the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.”

The law would allow North Carolina tribal nations with recognized Class III casinos to offer sports betting, horse racing betting, gaming machines (i.e. slots), live table games, raffles, and other video gambling terminals. Online sports wagering is not a part of the proposal.

The next step for SB 154 is to be heard before the Senate Rules and Operations Committee, which will review the proposal on Tuesday of next week. Given that the bill has widespread bipartisan support (as does HB 302, its congressional counterpart in the House), there’s actually a decent chance that the legislation will advance and pass during this session.

Critically, the bill also has the full support of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (ECBI). The ECBI runs a pair of North Carolina casinos – Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Hotel & Casino – on reservations in the western part of the state.

ECBI Principal Chief Richard Sneed didn’t offer much in the way of details, stating simply that once SB 154 is passed, the nation’s pair of gambling venues “will begin offering sports betting in North Carolina.”

Given that tribal negotiations have slowed legal sports betting adoption in several other states, this is a positive development and speaks to the urgency with which North Carolina lawmakers and community leaders are considering the mainstream sports betting movement.

The North Carolina legislative session has about a month left on the 2019 calendar (with special sessions tacked on as needed). If sports wagering is legalized before the session’s deadline, there’s a good chance that the first legal wagers in the state would be accepted in time for the start of the NFL season.

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