There is now one more place to bet on sports in North Carolina legally.
Just prior to the start of the 2022 NFL season, the Tar Heel state opened up another sportsbook inside the temporary casino operated by the Catawba Nation. This now brings North Carolina's total number of sportsbooks to three. They opened another two all the way back in March of 2021 at casinos operated by the Eastern Band of Indians in Cherokee and Murphy.
The timing behind the unveiling of a sportsbook managed by the Catawba Nation is hardly a coincidence. Experts estimate that more than one-quarter of a billion dollars will be bet on the NFL during Week 1. North Carolina clearly wanted to make sure they capitalized on as much of the football season as possible. And rightfully so.
Still, larger questions about the future of sports betting in North Carolina remain—including ones related to this very news. Let's see if we can answer some of them and shed light on what's to come in the Old North.
Full Details of 'Temporary' Sportsbook Opening in North Carolina
The new North Carolina sportsbook is not your typical betting operation. The fact that it's inside a temporary casino location alone is an anomaly.
When most people think of casino sportsbooks, their mind immediately goes toward big and comfy chairs, monster-sized television screens, an equally larger board that updates the latest betting lines and scores, and perhaps a restaurant and bar. This does not, however, describe the new North Carolina sportsbook.
Instead, there will be 30 betting kiosks placed inside the temporary Catawba Two Kings Casino in Kings Mountain. There will be televisions and displays of betting lines, but the entire operation will take place on a smaller scale. With that said, the kiosks will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week—just like the rest of the casino. Bettors will also be able to redeem their winnings with electronic vouchers at those same kiosks rather than having to wait in line for cashiers.
While North Carolina has most recently played up the importance of revenue coming from NFL betting in 2022, the new sportsbook will not just offer football gambling options. Customers can wager on everything from baseball, basketball, and hockey to auto racing, boxing, soccer, and many other events.
For anyone who had hoped to experience a more upscale sportsbook at Catawba Two Kings Casino, you're not totally out of luck. The current casino property is temporary, just as its name implies. The Catawba Nation has been given 17 acres in Cleveland County, North Carolina, on which it plans to one day open a more permanent and contemporary casino resort, replete with a sprawling and modernized sportsbook. Just don't expect the door to open on that anytime soon. Construction has been delayed since July 2021 as the result of an impending investigation.
Is There Now Online Sports Betting in North Carolina, Too?
Even though North Carolina seems intent on expanding its gambling operations, it does not look like legal online sports betting will arrive anytime soon.
Back in 2019, the General Assembly passed a law that gave federally recognized tribes the right to offer sports wagering inside the state. This glossed over online sports betting altogether, preventing commercial and retail operators from setting up shop. The topic wasn't broached again for a couple of years until this most recent legislative session. But talks on the legalization of online sports betting almost immediately fell apart, and now, North Carolina isn't expected to re-evaluate their position for a couple of more years.
This delay will rankle some residents. It is unlikely to bother the tribal casinos, though. While North Carolina's sports betting laws may prevent them from signing lucrative and mutually beneficial partnerships with corporate online sportsbooks—like we've seen most recently in Ohio—the state's tribes do at least have exclusivity over gaming rights. This ensures that any sports betting in California will go through its doors. The very opportunity to bet on sports inside their casinos should drum up foot traffic in general.
Challenges are nevertheless still ahead for the Catawba Nation and the rest of the state's tribes. The overwhelming majority of sports bets in the United States are now placed online. North Carolina cannot hope to slow that trend, just because they don't allow it. Right this second, residents from the Tar Heel State have the option of signing up with any site from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks and submitting wagers that way.
What's Next for Sports Betting in The Tar Heel State?
Competing with the online sports betting business model by opening only on-site kiosks will be difficult. North Carolina is bound to lose revenue to offshore sportsbooks or to neighboring states that have already legalized gambling.
Granted, the Tar Heel state is in a better position to chug along with the status quo than other states. They're not enveloped by neighbors who have already legalized online sports betting, so their on-site-only approach isn't technically threatened.
That's still not going to be good enough over the long term. The number of states entertaining online sports betting has only grown over the past couple of years. North Carolina's own legal sports betting will soon become an outmoded model. To keep pace with the industry, they'll need to branch out into the online sector eventually.
When will that happen? We can't be sure. But the good news is North Carolina's tribes haven't shown as much resistance to allowing a free sports betting market as we see in Florida and California. That suggests it's on the state's officials to strike an agreement, get it through the House of Representatives and Senate, and then onto the next election ballot. Put another way: North Carolina opening another sports betting facility is only the beginning. They still have a long way to go.
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