Blackjack Games in North Carolina

When it comes to card games in casinos, blackjack is a favorite everywhere, including in North Carolina. You can play blackjack in North Carolina tribal casinos, and while online gambling for real money isn’t an option, you can play online blackjack in NC at a few social and sweepstakes casinos.

Here’s an overview of blackjack in North Carolina, including options for playing in person or online, information about how to play blackjack, and everything else you will want to know when seeking out a game in the Tar Heel State.

Is blackjack legal in North Carolina?

Yes, blackjack is one of the games that the state’s tribal casinos can offer under North Carolina’s compacts with the tribes that operate the casinos.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is the only federally recognized tribe in North Carolina. Its tribal-state compact lists the Class III games that the Cherokees can offer at their casinos, and “Blackjack and 21 games” appears in that list.

The Catawba Nation is actually based in South Carolina just over the border, but it has land in North Carolina where it operates a casino. The Catawbas likewise have a compact with NC that includes blackjack among the games it can offer.

Can I play online blackjack in North Carolina?

Real money online casinos are illegal in North Carolina. Other states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Michigan allow them, but NC does not. Therefore, you cannot play online blackjack for real money in North Carolina.

You might encounter casino sites featuring online blackjack that claim to be legal for North Carolina players. These sites operate outside of the US and do not recognize federal or state laws and regulations pertaining to online gambling. As a result, they are risky for North Carolina players, and we recommend you avoid them.

If you were to play online casino blackjack on these offshore sites and encounter any difficulties, you would have no legal recourse. For example, if you suspected a problem with game integrity or fraudulent activity, or you ran into problems withdrawing funds and did not receive adequate customer support, you would have nowhere to go for help. You don’t want to risk your funds as well as the security of your information with such sites.

Legal, regulated online gambling is the only safe option. In states that allow online casinos, they represent the best alternative for those wanting to play blackjack over the internet. But in North Carolina, blackjack players will need to remain patient and understand they cannot play online at present, at least not for real money.

Social and sweepstakes casinos with blackjack in North Carolina

Looking to play blackjack online for free in North Carolina? Those in North Carolina who do want to play blackjack online have a legal option in the form of social and sweepstakes casinos. These sites let you play casino games using virtual currencies, and in some cases you can redeem winnings for cash prizes.

Most of these sites focus primarily on online slots, but a few offer table games like blackjack.

Chumba Casino is a sweepstakes-style site that offers both a traditional blackjack game and a variant called Back Blackjack that includes an extra side bet on either you or the dealer making blackjack. Pulsz Casino also offers blackjack, among other table games.

How to play blackjack

Blackjack is a “house-banked” card game. This means that — unlike poker where you play against other players — in blackjack you are playing against the “house.” It’s you vs. the dealer in blackjack, and in order to win you must make a better hand than the dealer does.

Blackjack uses a standard 52-card deck, although in many casinos (including in North Carolina) games take place using a multi-deck “shoe.” The object of the game is to accumulate cards totaling as close to 21 as possible without going over. Suits are of no consequence; only the card ranks matter. Kings, queens, jacks and 10s are all worth 10; cards 2 through 9 are each worth the card’s number; and aces are worth either 11 or 1, whichever is better for the player.

When cards are first dealt, both the player and dealer receive two cards. Both of the player’s cards will be face up, while one of the dealer’s cards will be face down and hidden.

The player goes first. You can either stand and receive no additional cards, or elect to hit and get another card. You can continue to hit after that as well until you decide to stand or you reach 21 or go over, which means you bust and lose the hand. Once all players take their turns, the dealer can then similarly either stand or hit while also trying to reach 21 without going over.

After the dealer finishes, whoever has the hand with the highest total without going over 21 wins. If you both have the same total (or if you both bust), the hand is a push, and you get your bet back. If your first two cards add up to 21 (for example, a king and an ace), that is a natural blackjack, and you automatically win the hand unless the dealer also has a natural blackjack, which makes the hand a push.

In blackjack, each player competes against the dealer (or the "house")
In blackjack, each player competes against the dealer (or the “house”) (Shutterstock)
Whereas players have the freedom to hit or stand however they wish, dealers operate under some restrictions when they play their hands. The casino’s rules dictate when the dealer must stand or hit. Usually, dealers always have to hit if their hand totals 16 or less, and they always have to stand if they have 18 or more.

However, when the dealer has exactly 17, the rules will vary. In some cases, the dealer must hit on a “soft 17,” which is a hand adding up to 17 that contains an ace (which can be either 1 or 11) but stand on a “hard 17,”which is a hand totaling 17 without an ace in it. In other cases, the dealer stands on both a soft and hard 17. North Carolina casinos have some tables that go one way and some that go the other.

Betting in blackjack

You probably noticed how nothing described above concerns betting in blackjack, which takes place before hands are even dealt. There is usually a table minimum and maximum, and before the deal you decide how much you want to bet on your hand by placing your chips in the designated area.

Once the hand begins, you might be able to make other betting decisions. The most popular of these is to double down. After you receive your first two cards, you can double down, which means doubling your wager and taking just one additional card.

There are certain times when it is a good idea to double down, such as when your first two cards add up to 11. There are lots of cards worth 10, so with 11 you stand a decent chance of finishing with 21 if you take just one more card. (In any case, you cannot bust.)

There are other additional choices you can make related to betting in blackjack:

  • Splitting your hand — If your first two cards are the same, you can split them into two hands. You double your bet, and the dealer deals you an additional card to go with each of the two cards, making two hands.
  • Surrendering your hand — If you hate your first two cards, you can surrender right there and only lose half your wager.
  • Taking insurance — If the dealer has an ace as the face-up card, you can take insurance by betting half your wager that the dealer’s face-down card equals 10 to make a natural blackjack.

Note, however, that not every casino gives you all of these options when you play blackjack. For example, in the North Carolina casinos with live blackjack, you cannot surrender your hand. You also can’t split two aces.

Payout odds for blackjack games

One of the chief attractions of blackjack is the simplicity of the betting and payouts. In traditional blackjack, when you beat the dealer, you double your money. That means if you’ve bet $25, you get your money back plus another $25 for a total of $50. The payout is 1-to-1.

You win more if you win with a natural blackjack — that is, when your first two cards total 21 exactly. Casinos generally pay out either 3-to-2 or 6-to-5 for a win with a natural blackjack. If you’ve bet $20 and the casino pays 3-to-2, then you win $30 (getting back $50 total). If you’ve bet $20 and the casino pays 6-to-5, you win $24 (getting back $44 total).

As you can see, 3-to-2 blackjack is better for players, and, everything else being equal, you should always sit at a 3-to-2 table instead of a 6-to-5 one. Often what you’ll find is that the better odds are reserved for the higher limit tables. As we go over below, that’s generally true at North Carolina casinos, where the lowest limit games pay 6-to-5 for a natural blackjack and the higher limit ones pay 3-to-2.

Sometimes you’ll encounter blackjack games with different side bets that pay out at different blackjack odds if you win. Before you sit down at a blackjack table, be sure to see what the payouts are, what the stakes are and any other details about variations or side bets prior to joining the game.

Where to play blackjack in North Carolina

You can legally play blackjack in North Carolina at three tribal casinos:

  • Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort
  • Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River
  • Catawba Two Kings Casino

The two Cherokee casinos both have dozens of blackjack tables where you can sit down and play blackjack in person against a live dealer. Meanwhile, the Catawba Two Kings Casino has no live table games yet, but it does have electronic blackjack.

Harrah’s Cherokee

Harrah’s Cherokee usually has around 35 to 40 blackjack tables operating on the main casino floor, with another eight tables in the high-limit salon.

On the floor, you’ll find a lot of $15 tables (meaning $15 is the minimum bet) that pay 6-to-5 on blackjack with the dealer hitting on a soft 17. You might find 3-to-2 blackjack at some $25 tables on the floor. The high-limit salon — where the games are $50 and higher — has 3-to-2 blackjack with the dealer standing on a soft 17.

Harrah’s Cherokee also offers another way to play blackjack, called Stadium Blackjack. The game involves players sitting at individual terminals and playing against a live dealer. In a way, the game combines both electronic and live blackjack, adding a fun twist by having players play the same hands with the freedom to act individually.

At Harrah’s Cherokee, Stadium Blackjack has 6-to-5 payouts on blackjack, but with a $5 minimum, which makes it less expensive than the $15 minimum at the live tables.

Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River

Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River in Murphy is a smaller casino, but it still has a lot of blackjack action, with around 25 tables on the main floor and another six in the high-limit salon.

Again, you’ll generally find 6-to-5 blackjack at the $15 tables on the casino floor, although occasionally there might be some 3-to-2 tables, so it’s worth a look around. The dealer hits on a soft 17 at these tables, as well. If you go to the high-limit salon, you’ll find $100 tables with 3-to-2 payouts and dealers standing on a soft 17.

At neither Cherokee casino are you allowed to surrender or re-split aces. Both of the Cherokee casinos have had electronic blackjack games available as well, so look around for those if they interest you.

Catawba Two Kings Casino

North Carolina’s newest casino, the Catawba Two Kings Casino in Kings Mountain, only has slots and electronic table games at the moment. However, the casino is expanding and has plans to add live table games, including real money blackjack.

You can still play electronic blackjack at Two Kings Casino, including both single- and multi-hand blackjack. Look for it on more than 30 multi-game machines that also offer electronic craps, roulette, and baccarat (Dai Bac).

North Carolina blackjack FAQ

What is “basic” blackjack strategy?
With a bit of study, you can learn what is often called “basic” blackjack strategy to minimize the house edge and increase your chances of winning. The strategy involves knowing whether to hit or stand (or split or double down) in different situations depending on your cards and the dealer’s up card. The number of situations is limited in blackjack, meaning it is possible to be ready for all of them and know what to do according to basic strategy.
What is the house edge in blackjack?
The house does have an advantage over you in blackjack. The house edge comes from the fact that you have to play your hand before the dealer. There will be times when you bust and the dealer wins without having to do anything. You don’t get that luxury. However, the house edge in blackjack generally isn’t too big, especially if you use correct basic strategy. If you do play optimally, the house edge can be less than 1%, much less than, say, the house edge in roulette. But this depends on the rules of the specific table, such as when you can split or double down.
Is card counting when playing blackjack illegal in North Carolina?
Card counting refers to the practice in blackjack of keeping track of cards played in order to anticipate what cards are left, then acting accordingly (for instance, standing or hitting). Card counters can even adjust their betting before a hand begins if they can anticipate good cards coming. One deterrent to card counting at the two Harrah’s Cherokee casinos in North Carolina is that the games generally use six-deck shoes, meaning there are many more cards to keep track of. Card counting isn’t specifically illegal in NC, and the casinos won’t stop you from trying, but they will do whatever they can to make things difficult for card counters.
Is online blackjack the same as the blackjack you play in a casino?
The blackjack rules are the same whether you play online or in person. Sometimes online sites will feature special rules or introduce certain variants that change the game, but you can encounter that in live blackjack, as well. The biggest difference when playing online is that the hands tend to play much faster. Another obvious difference is the missing social component that comes from playing alongside other players, although that doesn’t materially change the game.
Do I have to pay taxes in North Carolina on blackjack winnings?

North Carolina is like most states in the way it considers gambling winnings to be a form of miscellaneous income. Therefore, expect to pay taxes on your blackjack winnings, or at least you should plan on including those winnings on your tax returns when calculating your income. Learn more here.

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