North Carolina Gambling Laws

North Carolina residents want mobile sports betting. Their behavior during football season proved as much. So when will mobile sports betting actually arrive in the Tar Heel State?

The short answer is soon … probably. There have been several attempts to legalize online sports betting in the past few years, and another is making its way through the North Carolina General Assembly.

Between public demand and legislative activity, it’s reasonable to assume that mobile sports betting will be part of life in the state relatively soon.

Current legal status of NC sports betting

For the time being, North Carolina residents (and guests who would like to place sports wagers) have three land-based options. The three locations are all tribal facilities, and they were granted the right to offer onsite sports betting through the passage of S154 in 2019. The first legal bet in state history occurred two years later in 2021.

The three locations where you can place a sports bet legally in North Carolina are:

All sports betting must take place within reservation lands. In theory, it would be possible to offer mobile sports betting to customers physically on tribal grounds, but neither tribe has seen fit to offer an app in such a limited context.

Barring the passage of an enabling piece of legislation, this limited sports betting will remain the only legal sports betting in North Carolina. As indicated in the article about North Carolinians attempting to place mobile wagers, there may be a bit of confusion created by offshore and illegal sportsbooks.

Make no mistake—there is no legal way to place a mobile sports wager in North Carolina at this time. Any statements to the contrary are either misleading or plain wrong.

Top teams for betting in NC

Although there aren’t too many options for wagering in North Carolina at this time, there are plenty of teams that qualify as in-state betting favorites. Of course, nobody is going to be a fan of all of these teams, but there is undoubtedly tons of action whenever one of these teams has a game:

In addition to those professional teams, North Carolina is a hub for college athletics—particularly basketball. Here are the universities in the Tar Heel State that are big ticket items for NC sports bettors:

  • University of North Carolina
  • North Carolina State University
  • Duke University
  • Wake Forest University
  • Davidson College

Although some states choose to limit wagering on in-state collegiate teams, the enabling law for in-person wagering in North Carolina bears no such provision. It remains to be seen whether the passage of an online sports betting bill will contain any limitations of this type.

Legal online sports betting nearby

While there is no legal online sports betting in North Carolina, there are a couple of options in adjoining states to which North Carolinians may travel and place a bet. Although traveling to another state to wager may not be convenient for many NC residents, it’s a real option.

The first opportunity is traveling north to Virginia. Virginia legalized online sports betting in 2021 and now offers more than a dozen online apps to anyone over the age of 21 and inside state lines.

You can also find online sports betting to the west in Tennessee. Tennessee surprised many observers (who did not have the Volunteer State as a likely state to legalize) when it made mobile wagering legal back in 2019. The state has roughly one dozen sportsbook apps available for play and may add more in the future.

NC sports betting laws FAQ

Does North Carolina have sports betting?

Yes, North Carolina has legal sports betting at three retail locations.

Where can I bet on sports in NC?

There are three tribal locations that will accept wagers in North Carolina: the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee, the Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino in Murphy, and the Catawba Two Kings Casino in Kings Mountain.

Does North Carolina offer online sports betting?

There is no online sports betting permitted in North Carolina at this time.

Does NC sports betting have an age restriction?

As all three of the aforementioned casino sportsbooks are located inside 21+ facilities, you must be over the age of 21 to play. In addition, no prospective online sports betting bills have seriously proposed lowering the gambling age for online sports wagering. Hence, if a bill passes, it’s extremely likely the minimum age to bet online will be 21.

Do I have to be a resident of the state to play?

No, you don’t have to be a resident of North Carolina to play at its sportsbooks. Furthermore, there will be no residency requirement for any mobile sports betting law that comes along.

Do I have to be inside North Carolina to play?

Yes, you must be inside the state to place a sports wager. For the most part, that’s obvious, since in-person betting is the only permitted type of sports betting right now. Do not attempt to phone your bets directly into one of the sportsbooks or to an NC-based friend. Betting over the phone or as a proxy is a federal crime, regardless of state law.

Once mobile sports wagering becomes a reality, you will have to verify your location inside the Tar Heel State before completing a wager. The apps use geolocation verification software and are quite strict about enforcing the location mandate. They have to be, as they face fines and other sanctions from regulators if they aren’t vigilant about it.

Who regulates sports betting in NC?

At present, two tribe-specific regulators monitor the three sportsbooks in North Carolina. The Cherokee Tribal Gaming Commission oversees the two Harrah’s facilities, while the Catawba Nation Gaming Commission has jurisdiction over Catawba Two Kings. Until sports betting becomes a commercial endeavor in the state or is legalized statewide, the tribal overseers will have the job.

In all likelihood, the creation of an online sportsbook market in North Carolina will necessitate a state gaming commission. If a law passes to legalize online sports betting, we will have more clarity about the regulatory body in charge of the new industry.

About the Author

Mary Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.