Exploring the Rich History of Gambling in North Carolina

Published 6:24 am Tuesday, February 20, 2024

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North Carolina’s gambling history is marked by prohibition since 1764. Yet illegal gambling persists, including sports betting and video poker. Currently, only state lotteries, charitable gaming, and tribal casinos are legal. Despite opposition, discussions about expanding gambling options are ongoing, with online casinos’ legality uncertain. In this article, we’ll explore North Carolina’s gambling roots, its legal and illegal forms, and the accompanying narratives.

North Carolina’s Gambling History

Amidst North Carolina’s rich history and vibrant culture lies a tale of strict legislation and careful regulation regarding gambling activities. Dating back over two centuries, the state has grappled with the balance between preserving its values and allowing for recreational pastimes. Below, we delve into key milestones and policies that have shaped North Carolina’s approach to gambling throughout its history:

  • North Carolina’s strict stance on gambling: North Carolina’s strict gambling laws reflect its historical stance and societal concerns.
  • Historical measures to restrict gambling in North Carolina: Two centuries ago, North Carolina initiated measures to curb gambling, aiming to deter excessive betting and mitigate negative community impacts.
  • Colonial legislators’ views on gambling and crime: Colonial North Carolina lawmakers saw gambling as a vice that could erode hard work values and fuel crime, prompting laws to restrict gambling.
  • Bans on card games and gaming tables in public: In the early 19th century, North Carolina prohibited public card games and gaming tables to suppress gambling activities.
  • Exceptions to North Carolina’s gambling laws: Despite strict gambling regulations in North Carolina, some exceptions permitted fundraising activities for local communities.
  • Impact of stringent gambling laws on North Carolinians: Strict gambling laws in North Carolina drive residents to neighbouring states for more relaxed gambling options.
  • North Carolinians’ preference for gambling in surrounding states: Frequently travel to neighbouring states like Virginia, Georgia, and South Carolina for more extensive gambling opportunities.
  • Push for lotteries and Cherokee tribe casinos: In recent years, there’s been growing pressure to introduce lotteries and Cherokee-operated casinos in North Carolina, sparking debates and negotiations among state, tribal, and federal authorities.
  • Opening of Cherokee casino in November 1997: Despite challenges, Cherokee Casino opened in November 1997, a significant milestone in North Carolina’s gambling history after years of negotiation.
  • Significance of Cherokee casino opening in North Carolina: The Cherokee Casino’s opening was pivotal for both the Cherokee tribe and North Carolina’s gambling scene. It offered residents a legal gambling venue and hinted at a possible shift in gambling regulation attitudes.

Age Requirements and Evolution of Gambling Laws in North Carolina

The minimum age for gambling varies depending on the type of activity. For participation in state lotteries and draw raffles, individuals must be at least 18 years old. Conversely, entrance into tribal casinos and the placement of bets require players to be over 21 years old according to the law. Now, let’s delve into the evolution of legalised and prohibited forms of gambling in North Carolina over the years.

Tribal Casinos

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The first casino, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, was opened in 1997, marking the state’s first casino operated by a Native American. In 2015, another casino, Cherokee Valley River Casino, was opened, with the third, Catawba Two Kings Casino, opening in 2021.

Playing at casinos in North Carolina is allowed, although there is one requirement: they must be at designated casinos within Indian lands. Today, North Carolina is home to three casinos across the state, operated by federally recognised tribes such as the Cherokee Indians and the Lumbee Indians. These casinos offer sports betting, poker, table games, and free slot games.

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Bingo and Raffles

Bingo was first legalised as early as 1945 when it was permitted at fairs and exhibitions in Mecklenburg County. Similar laws permitting bingo and charitable raffles were also passed for various towns in subsequent years. In 1979, due to having a patchwork system of laws, a statewide law allowing this form of gambling was passed. Non-profit organisations were allowed to operate bingo and raffle draw games for fundraising.


The state lottery is a popular form of legalised gambling in North Carolina. In 2005, after a series of back-and-forths regarding the pros and cons of betting, the state legislature signed the state lottery into law. The lottery offered a variety of games, including scratch-off games, drawing games, and Powerball. The funds raised from lottery ticket purchases were used to finance educational programmes and infrastructure throughout the state.

Sports Betting

In 2019, North Carolina passed a law legalising sports betting. The first sports bet placed in the state was in 2021 at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino. Currently, a new bill is expected to be passed that would allow for more widespread sports betting via mobile devices.

Online Gambling

In today’s fast-paced world, online gambling is a phenomenon that is quite common and accepted globally. But is online gambling legal in North Carolina? The answer is a big, fat no. Online gambling is currently off-limits and not available in North Carolina. There are no authorised and safe online poker, online casinos, or sports betting sites in the state.

The subject of online betting is not going anywhere anytime soon, as online casino sites are known to generate a lot of money, which could be highly beneficial to the state. The entities regulating legal gambling in North Carolina are the North Carolina Gaming Commission and the North Carolina Lottery Commission.

Main Gambling Cities in North Carolina

Two out of the three casinos in North Carolina are owned by the Cherokee tribe. When searching for a casino haven in the state to indulge yourself and feed your excitement, these two cities are highly recommended.


Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, located on the Qualla Boundary in Cherokee, North Carolina, is a casino and hotel owned by the Cherokee Indians. A total of 1,833 rooms and a sprawling 150,000 square feet of total gaming space can be found here. The Cherokee casino offers a wide range of gaming options, whether it be live games like roulette, video poker, electronic table games, live poker, craps, slots, and more. The casino also possesses the best slot machines in the state.

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Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River, located in Murphy, North Carolina, is a bit smaller than the Cherokee casino; however, it still offers the same range of gaming options as the previous one. It consists of a total of 300 rooms and a gaming space of about 50,000 square feet. This casino is considered the most accessible in the state, as it is just an hour away from metropolitan Atlanta.


North Carolina’s relationship with gambling has evolved. From completely scrapping gambling to the introduction of lotteries and casinos in the state and through the challenges and controversies surrounding placing wagers, discussions about its growth and potential expansion continue to wax strong.