Gambling in North Carolina is a hot-button topic. It is multi-faceted, with typical casino-style games and gambling being one part and sports betting being another. Even in those areas, it is split, with in-person/retail gambling and online sports betting in North Carolina being separate entities.
We know currently that there is no online gambling in the state, whether that be sports betting or casino-style games. Right now, the only type of gambling that is allowed has to be done at one of three retail tribal casinos. According to a 2020 report commissioned by the North Carolina General Assembly that recently came to light, North Carolina could support as many as nine Las Vegas-style casinos.
The question is now about where could such locations be, and will there be new casinos under development in the future? Only time will tell, but here is what we know about the situation currently.
Casinos In North Carolina Right Now
There are three casinos in North Carolina right now. All three have fully operational casino-style games, slots, sportsbooks, and more. All three are tribal casinos, with Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River, and Two Kings Casino in Kings Mountain.
The two Harrah’s casinos are under the operation and control of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Two Kings Casino is under the operation and control of the Catawba Nation.
The Tribal casinos have pacts with the state of North Carolina, through which they share 6% of their gaming revenue with the state. The Casino in Cherokee is a resort with more than 1,100 hotel rooms. Reports have said that it is yearly one of the highest-grossing casinos in the entire country. Between the two Harrah’s Casinos, it is estimated they bring in almost a billion dollars a year.
The Future of North Carolina Gambling, Casinos, Sports Betting
To use a major city in Western North Carolina, Asheville, as an example, reports suggest that Asheville could stand to generate over $100 million a year from its own casino. If North Carolina sports betting legislation passes in 2023, it could make more casinos likely.
“I think that if sports betting passes, there’ll be an effort to go to the next step,” retired State Rep. John Ager told AVL Watchdog. “I just can’t imagine North Carolina allowing nine casinos, but you know, these kinds of things have a life to them, and when you win a couple of preliminary rounds, maybe you could get there.”
The 2020 report conducted by independent gaming consultant Spectrum Gaming Group showed some exciting figures. The total of nine viable casinos includes the three already opened by tribal groups and six more. The six more suggested locations of Pinehurst, Winston Salem, Wilmington, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, and Asheville.
The report estimated revenue between the six locations could be over $2.1 billion. Combine that with the over $1 billion from the three tribal casinos, and the state could generate more than $3 billion in yearly revenue. Even at the 6% rate the tribal casinos currently give, that would be $180,000,000 in tax revenue for the state. It also stands to reason that non-tribal casinos could have a higher revenue percentage to be taxed.
North Carolina is currently debating sports betting, specifically the allowance for online betting. If this were to occur, that would be another revenue point that is not included in the Spectrum Gaming report. While there are many fair points brought up about the ethics of casinos, online gambling, and sports betting, at a minimum, it is a significant boost to North Carolina’s tax revenue.
There are other items to consider, like the increased tourism due to local casinos. Part of the reason Harrah’s Casinos, run by the Cherokee Tribe, are so profitable is they are the only casinos in the region. Yet the boost to their local economies since each has opened is notable. Any new casinos would bring in more tourists leading to more jobs, more sales tax, and an overall boost to the North Carolina economy.