NC Tribes Enter Sports Betting Applicant Pool But Regulators Hold Off On A Launch Date

Two more operators joined the pool of applicants for an NC sports betting license this month, bringing the total number to nine.

The newest submissions come from tribal entities: The Catawba Nation, which operates the Catawba Two Kings Casino, and Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise Cherokee, otherwise known as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which operate the two Harrah’s casinos in the western part of the state.

Previously, seven commercial sportsbooks submitted applications ahead of the North Carolina Lottery Commission’s recommended Dec. 27 deadline for sportsbooks, gambling service providers and suppliers.

Per a state law passed last June, North Carolina online sports betting can feature 13 sportsbooks: 11 commercial and two tribal.

Tribal casinos seek to expand into online sports betting

Catawba Two Kings Casino and Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise Cherokee own the state’s only retail sports betting outlets and will each gain an online sportsbook if their applications are approved.

Currently, there are no commercial sportsbooks in the state. This situation will change sometime on or before June 15, 2024, the state-mandated deadline for NC online sports betting and expanded retail sports betting to go live.

The Catawba Indian Nation, based just across the state line in South Carolina, operates the temporary Catawba Two Kings Casino on approximately 17 acres of their ancestral land in Kings Mountain. The casino opened in 2021. The tribe’s sportsbook consists of 30 kiosks. A full-scale casino expansion has been in the works for a few years now and likely won’t be completed until at least 2026.

Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise Cherokee owns two Harrah’s-branded casinos: Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort (Cherokee) and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel (Murphy).

Caesars owns the Harrah’s brand and both casinos have Caesars Sportsbooks. The Cherokee location, which opened in 1997, has the largest retail sportsbook in the state with self-serve kiosks, ticket windows and a 90-foot game wall.

Instead of applying for an operator license, Caesars applied for a service provider license, indicating that the company is seeking to enter the NC online sports betting market via the two Harrah’s casinos.

Not all operators will go live on launch date

For applications received after the Dec. 27 recommended deadline, such as those from the tribal groups, their applications may not be approved to launch at the earliest go-live date.

“We might not be able to complete the application review and licensure process prior to the commencement of sports wagering in North Carolina,” Sterl Carpenter, the NCLC’s deputy director of sports betting, commented during a commission meeting on Wednesday. In addition, last week the commission advised operators to submit mandatory internal controls documentation by Jan. 26.

While 18 operators requested sportsbook applications, only nine have completed a submission and seven turned in applications by Dec. 27. The seven early bird operators are:

  • FanDuel (Betfair Interactive US)
  • BetMGM
  • DraftKings (Crown NC Gaming)
  • Fanatics Betting & Gaming (FBG Enterprises North Carolina)
  • Bet365 (Hillside)
  • Penn Sports Interactive (ESPN Bet)
  • Underdog Sports Wagering

What’s next for applicants?

Once operators receive licensing approval and submit internal controls documentation, the NCLC will determine if the operator is eligible to receive a certification of compliance. Gaining certification involves sportsbooks completing a list of activities, some of which are included in the application and internal controls review.

List of activities required for an NC sports betting certificate of compliance

“Once a licensed operator demonstrates to the commission that it has met operational requirements, staff will issue a certificate of compliance authorizing them to proceed with wagering activity,” Carpenter said. “This approach mirrors implementation models used in other states.”

The commission has yet to announce a firm launch date for commercial sports betting. However, this week Gov. Roy Cooper reiterated his desire that online sports betting go live before March Madness.

About the Author

Cheryl Coward

Cheryl Coward started her career as a news reporter in Washington, DC. She's a die-hard women's basketball fan and founded the website as a result of that passion. She loves writing about sports on all levels and has previous experience covering sports betting regulations, operator marketing campaigns and women's sports gambling topics.