North Carolina Gambling Sites - Laws, Regulations, and Guide
North Carolina will never be mistaken for a liberal state when it comes to gambling.
The Tar Heel State doesn't have any commercial casinos, they didn't have a lottery until 2005 and their authorities have raided poker games.
Are they this prejudiced against online gambling too?
We'll answer this question by exploring many of North Carolina's gambling laws.
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Online Gambling and North Carolina Law
North Carolina doesn't address Internet gambling in their criminal code. This means that their online gaming market is a grey area served by many offshore sites.
You won't have any difficulty finding Internet casinos, poker rooms or sportsbooks in the Tar Heel State, but this doesn't mean that the activity is legal.
Let's continue discussing the murky circumstances behind North Carolina iGaming, along with whether or not you're safe to play here.
Is Online Gambling Legal in North Carolina?
North Carolina criminal code 14-292 offers the following definition of illegal gambling:
"[Gambling includes] any person or organization that operates any game of chance or any person who plays at or bets on any game of chance at which any money, property or other thing of value is bet, whether the same be in stake or not, shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor."
This is a tidy summary that lays out the punishments for both players and operators.
Based on section 14-292, we can assume that it's illegal to both play and offer online gambling because it's unapproved.
Code 14-7.20 (a) suggests another possible penalty for illegal operators:
"Any person who engages in a continuing criminal enterprise shall be punished as a Class H felon and in addition shall be subject to the forfeiture prescribed in subsection (b) of this section."
North Carolina has yet to pursue an offshore gaming site, but if they ever did, we assume that they'd push for a Class H felony over a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Can I be Arrested for Gambling Online in North Carolina?
It's possible, but highly unlikely.
Again, criminal code 14-292 leaves open the possibility that you can be arrested for any unlicensed bet, but are you really going to be busted for Internet gambling in the Tar Heel State?
We strongly doubt that you'll be arrested for online gambling. The biggest reason why is because North Carolina has never prosecuted anybody for the activity.
Online gaming has been in existence for over two decades. If they haven't arrested an online gambler by this point, then they may never do so.
Did Sweepstakes Cafes Get Banned because they're Internet Gambling?
North Carolina is one of many states that has dealt with the sweepstakes café dilemma.
Sweepstakes cafes sell Internet time to customers who are then given the chance to win prizes through slot like machines.
These businesses exploit a loophole in many states' criminal codes because they're not selling bets - they're selling Internet time.
In the late 2000s, the State Legislature launched a campaign to get rid of sweepstakes cafes. They initially lost, but took the matter to the North Carolina Supreme Court and won in 2010.
Immediately afterward, state authorities began forcing sweepstakes businesses to shut down.
But not all of these cafes closed as ordered. Chan Ji Byung was running a sweepstakes café in Raleigh until 2014. He was arrested on an "online gambling" warrant, and his business was shut down.
This differs from a traditional offshore casino because Byung and others were running sweepstakes cafes on North Carolina soil. This also shows that the state will bust an Internet gambling operator when necessary.
Are Offshore Gaming Sites Safe?
As the name suggests, offshore gaming sites aren't located or licensed in the U.S. Due to this factor, they don't have to adhere to American business standards and laws.
But this doesn't mean that all offshore gambling companies are automatically crooked.
The quality and reputability of offshore sites depend upon the individual company. Below are some steps you want to take to find the best offshore casinos, poker rooms and sports betting sites:
- Read Reviews
- Find Out when the Site Opened
- Make Sure You can Deposit
- Contact Customer Support
We recommend reading several reviews to gauge the overall quality of a gaming site to see if it meets your needs.
Serving customers well is a crucial element of staying in business for years.
Before you waste too much time with any individual site, make sure that they have a deposit option you can use. Otherwise, you won't be able to play there for real money.
Customer service is one of the most underrated aspects to a gaming site. Send them a simple question to see how quickly they respond and gauge their friendliness.
Breaking down what is or isn't legal in North Carolina. Gambling Venues in North Carolina
Where to gamble in the state of North Carolina. The History of Gaming Laws in North Carolina
A brief history of North Carolina laws regarding gambling. North Carolina Gambling FAQs
A list of questions asked about gambling in North Carolina Additional Information
Still have questions? Check out these links. The Future of Gambling in North Carolina
What the future could hold for North Carolina gamblers
More Gambling Laws in North Carolina
North Carolina was largely void of gambling options until the 1990s. This is when they negotiated a casino gambling compact with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
In 1997, Harrah's Cherokee Casino became the state's first casino. In 2015, the same tribe opened a second venue called Harrah's Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel.
Originally, these establishments were only approved to offer video gaming. The tribes and state government amended this deal in 2012 so that the casinos could offer table games too.
Charitable Gambling: Legal
Approved charities can only offer bingo and raffles in North Carolina.
As outlined by section 14-309.6 (1) of the Charitable Gaming Statues, approved charities include: civic, fraternal, nonprofit, patriotic, religious and volunteer fire department groups.
Section 14-309.9 states that no bingo session can award over $1,500 worth of prizes, and raffles can't offer more than $10,000 in one session.
North Carolina didn't approve their lottery until 2005.
Despite the late start, their lottery has been really successful, and has generated over $5 billion to the state's education system.
Games offered by the North Carolina Education Lottery include: Lucky for Life, Mega Millions, Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5 and Powerball.
North Carolina only has one poker room in Harrah's Cherokee. This is a sizable poker room with 20 tables and a host of tournaments.
The Poker Tavern League used to offer poker tournaments in the state's bars. This league thought they could get around gambling laws by giving out non cash prizes.
After several unsuccessful legal battles with the state, the Poker Tavern League eventually shut down.
Greyhound racing was legal in North Carolina for a short stint from 1948 to 1954. These races took place at the Morehead City and Moyock racetracks.
Greyhound racing and both tracks were all abolished in the mid-1950s after corruption allegations. The private company that ran the tracks was allegedly being given special treatment by officials.
North Carolina is one of the few states that has never allowed horseracing.
Social Gambling: Illegal
The North Carolina Constitution doesn't address social gambling.
Going back to code 14-292, any betting activity that's not approved by the state is illegal. Therefore, social gaming is also be deemed illegal in this context.
North Carolina is a state where you definitely want to be careful when playing home poker games. Here are a few instances of home games being busted:
WRAL.com reported that police raided a 2007 warehouse poker function and cited 41 players. The police asked for backup from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives because they thought there would be guns and drugs on the property.
CardPlayer covered a 2008 poker bust in Fayetteville, where police charged 39 players with misdemeanor gambling. They also arrested the host for selling alcohol, which is a common crime at any home based gambling function.
A ChipTalk forum user wrote that a 2011 Raleigh based poker game was raided by armed policemen. Players were charged with illegal gambling. The hosts were raking pots and were likely charged (not specified) for operating an illegal gaming business.
As these instances show, you can be cited or arrested for social gambling in North Carolina, but if you're going to play anyways, the key is to avoid raked games.
Bars & Video Terminals: Illegal
Much like with sweepstakes cafes, North Carolina had trouble with bars and video gaming terminals.
They originally allowed bars and other liquor serving venues to offer video gaming. By the year 2000, they imposed machine limits because the state was becoming filled with gambling games.
Many bars ignored the limitations and continued offering as many machines as they wanted. StarNews reported at the time that there was a 2:1 ratio of illegal to legal machines.
With thousands of illegal gambling machines flooding their state, North Carolina banned all video gaming.
Gambling Venues in North Carolina
North Carolina is low on gambling establishments, with the Eastern Cherokee Band owning the only two casinos.
The largest of these is Harrah's Cherokee, which has 3,300 gaming machines and 100 table games. Their other property, Harrah's Cherokee Valley, features 1,050 gaming machines and 70 table games.
The Catawaba Tribe wants to open another casino called King's Mountain Resort. Their proposed plan is to build this $600 million complex in the Charlotte area.
The Catawaba have the backing of Hard Rock International, but the Cherokee Tribe is protesting the casino along with Charlotte based anti-gambling activists.
As of now, the King's Mountain is still shelved until the U.S. Department of the Interior gives their approval.
Below, you can see the gaming establishments that are currently active in North Carolina:
Cherokee Tribal Bingo
91 Bingo Loop Rd, Cherokee, NC 28719
Eastway Beach Bingo
2835 Eastway Dr, Charlotte, NC 28205
Harrah's Cherokee Casino
777 Casino Dr, Cherokee, NC 28719
Harrah's Cherokee Valley River Casino
Nantahala National Forest, 777 Casino Pkwy, Murphy, NC 28906
202 W Market St Greensboro, NC 27401
History of Gambling in North Carolina
North Carolina became the eighth U.S. colony in 1653. This means that their gambling history begins earlier than most states.
In 1753, the colony banned gambling in public, erased all gaming debts and limited daily gambling losses to 40 shillings.
By 1784, all of these laws were repealed because North Carolina officials wanted to tax gambling.
The first time that North Carolina's modern statehood government took gambling on was 1939, when they legalized greyhound racing. The activity would be banned less than two decades later in 1954.
In 1979, the state legalized bingo and raffles for non-profit organizations.
One of the most notable events in North Carolina's gambling history occurred in 1994, when the government signed a video gaming compact with the Cherokee Indians. Today, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians owns both tribal casinos in the state.
As for Internet gambling, the Old North State has only considered daily fantasy sports so far. Hopefully these pursuits will expand into online casino and poker games someday.
Colony government bans gambling in public; limits losses to 40 shillings per day; and forgives gaming losses.
General Assembly legalizes greyhound racing.
Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed, allowing tribes and states to negotiate casino compacts.
Harrah's Cherokee Casino becomes first in the state.
North Carolina bans video gaming machines at businesses because they're abusing the limits.
Tribal compact amended so that Cherokee casinos can offer table games.
Daily fantasy sports bill introduced in the State Legislature committee.
Colony repeals gambling limitations.
Greyhound racing banned.
Charitable bingo and raffles approved.
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians approved to offer video gaming.
State Legislature approves a lottery.
North Carolina Education Lottery launches.
Cherokee Valley River Casino opens.
North Carolina Gambling FAQs
Earlier, we covered that the Tar Heel State doesn't address online gambling. Then again, their broad laws also leave open the possibility that iGaming is illegal in the state.
This no doubt leads to more questions on North Carolina's Internet gambling. Let's cover a few of the most common ones that we've received below.
According to ESPN, North Carolina follows a "predominance test" when it comes to daily fantasy sports. This means that relative levels of chance and skill are measured to see if the activity is legal.
The state hasn't announced that DFS is inherently illegal. This means that industry leaders DraftKings and FanDuel continue to serve North Carolina until told otherwise.
State Reps Ed Hanes and Jon Hardister have introduced House Bill 279, which would legalize and regulate DFS. At the time of this writing, there's been no word on HB 279's success or failure.
The legislation seeks to tax DFS operators, and charge licensing fees between $2,500 and $10,000.
The Old North State hasn't even legalized commercial casinos yet, so we don't see them regulating iGaming either.
Furthermore, North Carolina hasn't had any serious discussions about legalizing online gambling.
Also note that their neighbors - Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia - haven't come close to regulating Internet gambling. This is important because neighboring peers can hasten iGaming discussions (i.e. Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania).
Combining these factors, we don't see North Carolina legalizing iGaming for a long time.
When pouring over most states' gambling laws, we usually find a concrete definition that can be used to deem a smartphone an illegal gaming device.
This isn't the case with North Carolina. Instead, the closest thing we find is in code 14-301:
"It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to operate, keep in his possession or in the possession of any other person, firm or corporation, for the purpose of being operated, any slot machine or device where the user may become entitled to receive any money, credit, allowance, or any thing of value, as defined in G.S. 14-306."
This definition is meant to cover illegal slot machines, but the phrase "device where the user may become entitled to receive money..." could describe a smartphone.
This is a stretch though, and North Carolina would probably use their basic definition of illegal gambling to pursue a mobile player.
Again, though, North Carolina has never arrested somebody just for online gambling.
The Old North Line State features two main gambling bodies, including Cherokee Tribal Gaming Commission and the North Carolina Education Lottery. Here's info on both of these organizations.
Cherokee Tribal Gaming Commission - North Carolina doesn't have a commercial casino industry. Given that the Harrah's casinos are both on sovereign reservations, the Cherokee Tribal Gaming Commission oversees this sector.
North Carolina Education Lottery - The North Carolina Education Lottery handles the state's various lottery games and makes payouts to winners.
Article 37 of the North Carolina Constitution - This section lays out many of North Carolina's gambling laws. You'll find info on charitable bingo, lotteries and other forms of gaming in the state.
The Future & Your Views
North Carolina is in the heart of the Bible Belt, and their gambling actions/laws reflect this.
The Old North State has busted poker games, banned video gaming machines and shut down sweepstakes cafés under the banner of illegal online gambling.
We're not saying that North Carolina wasn't justified in these things, but these events show that they aren't very liberal in regards to gaming.
This doesn't give us much hope that the Tar Heel State will legalize Internet gambling any time soon. North Carolina has conservative values, and there's no real push for online casino games and poker.
One promising aspect is that daily fantasy sports legislation has been introduced in the State Legislature. We have no idea if HB 279 will go anywhere, but it's at least progress.
Odds are that North Carolina and other Bible Belt states will be among the last to seriously consider Internet poker and casino games.
The good news is that state residents and visitors have more than enough offshore gaming sites to keep themselves busy until then.