North Carolina Real Money Online Gambling Guide

North Carolina is one of the southern states in the U.S. that is part of what is considered the bible belt, and when it comes to gambling, bible belt states are generally not that welcoming to the practice. The bible cautions against an excessive love of money, and somehow this has been understood to speak out against gambling. All that was needed is to use the power of politics to seek to enforce this religious belief, and the North Carolina legislature has historically been more than happy to comply.

The use of democratic political power to suppress acts that are merely unpopular is why we have constitutional protections, to protect us against infringements upon our liberty without due process, where liberty here is defined as exercising control of our own lives, and due process here means that the infringement of liberty is based upon objectively justifiable reasons, not just because people voted to do it, to provide oversight such that this power is not abused.

While anti-gambling legislation has not been put to this constitutional test yet, we have relied instead upon the electorate becoming more enlightened and come to realize that they should not use the power of law to enforce their personal preferences about how people’s entertainment budget should be spent. North Carolina is well behind the curve at present, but has shown hope that this may change over time. We’ll discuss this and also show you that submitting to this political will is a lot more voluntary than most think.

History of Gambling in North Carolina

North Carolina Online Casinos and SlotsWhile the pattern usually is to see states become more liberal toward gambling over time, where attitudes toward gambling become rethought over time, North Carolina has the distinction of moving in the other direction over the years, becoming more rather than less conservative.

It’s not that things were all that liberal in this state back in the 18th century when North Carolina got its first anti-gambling law, in 1749, back when they were a British colony. The issue back then was pretty polarized, where gambling was met by fierce opposition which ended up carrying the day.

The 1749 law simply dealt with putting a cap on enforceable gambling debts of £100 to prevent “excessive and immoderate” gambling. Four years later, in 1753, North Carolina decided to invalidate gambling debts of any amount, ban all public gambling, and limit gambling losses to 40s a day, which became reduced further to 5s a day in 1763.

In 1784, North Carolina changed their mind and in an effort to raise funds, these gambling laws were repealed and the colony instead imposed a tax on playing cards and dice, in spite of the legislature referring to new games that emerged at this time as “evil species of gaming,” as an excuse to levy an additional tax on them.

North Carolina became a state in 1789, and two years later, the state took a big turn in the other direction, completely banning gambling in all forms. The 19th century brought the approval of lotteries for a time, but in 1835, during a national movement to ban lotteries, North Carolina slammed the door on this form of gambling as well.

Gambling remained banned until 1939, when legislation was passed to allow 2 pari-mutuel greyhound tracks, which did operate for a few years, until a court ruling forced them to close in 1954, where the monopoly that the state granted to the racing association was struck down as unconstitutional. North Carolina has not seen any pari-mutuel racing since.

During the fairly brief time that North Carolinians were able to bet on dog races, the state also opened up to small stakes charitable bingo, which continued to be regulated at the local level until a statewide law permitting it was passed in 1979.

North Carolina has one federally regulated Indian tribe, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who took advantage of new federal rules allowing for higher stake bingo to be offered by opening a high stakes bingo operation in 1982. In 1994, the tribe reached a pact with the state to offer casino gaming with the condition that it involve “skill or dexterity.” This presented some interesting gaming, where players would stop reels with slots to use the required dexterity to make the games suitable to the state’s tastes in gambling.

The tribe brought in Harrah’s in 2007, to replace their makeshift casino, and by 2012, it was allowed to offer table games and operate like a real casino. A second casino was built for the tribe by Harrah’s in 2015.

North Carolina also had a lot of video poker machines in and around the state around this time, both illegal and legal ones. In 2000, the state limited the number of these machines in one place to 3, and in 2007, they were banned completely. Operators replaced these real money machines with sweepstakes style ones, and in spite of legal challenges, many of these machines are still in operation today.

North Carolina finally permitted lotteries again in 2006 with the creation of the North Carolina Educational Lottery. In 2019, a law was passed to allow the state’s Indian casinos to offer sports betting, although only land-based sports betting is being allowed at this time.

North Carolina Gambling Laws

North Carolina anti-gambling law concerns itself with banning wagering on all games of chance unless otherwise authorized. It reads as follows:

Except as provided in Chapter 18C of the General Statutes or in Part 2 of this Article, 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.

North Carolina also makes it illegal to possess gambling equipment used as games of chance, for instance slot machines, other gaming machines, or any other implement used in offering these games. This law is regularly enforced by breaking up illegal operations, even though there’s only so much that authorities can do to curtail illegal gambling and most of it occurs beneath the radar.

As is often the case, prohibiting games of chance often leaves open the question of whether poker is to be understood as a game of chance for the purposes of interpreting gambling laws. An argument can be made on both sides, due to the outcome of poker being determined by chance in the short run but dependent upon skill in the long run, and the courts in North Carolina have come down on the side of chance, and have ruled poker to be understood as a game of chance for the purposes of applying this law.

What is noticeably absent from this law is betting on contests of skill such as sporting events, where both the wagering and the event itself is skill-based. Oddly enough, it took the offering of sports betting at the states’ two Class III tribal casinos to finally have North Carolina law speak on the subject, where the enabling provision delimits legal sports wagering in the state to these two casinos only.

This is not much to hang your hat on as prohibitions need to be more specific than this, as this speaks to a regulatory issue and not a criminal one, defining who can offer this but not making participating in this against the law.

North Carolina does require specific gambling licenses to offer any gambling in the state though, so this is managed at the regulatory level, with the difference being that betting on sports itself has not been made illegal, even though operating an unauthorized gambling operation in the state is not allowed.

As far as whether or not gambling online is legal or not in North Carolina, it’s hard to argue against a law that makes wagering on any game of chance illegal, which would include both real money online casino gambling as well as online poker given that the North Carolina courts have deemed it a game of chance.

Engaging in sports betting is not addressed by this law though and there isn’t anything in it to charge anyone with unless it is to be understood as a game of chance, which would be far more difficult to argue than with poker, and this is the reason why state laws generally include separate prohibitions against wagering on contests.

Land Based Gambling in North Carolina

Excluding their two Indian casinos, which are only in operation due to the fact that this tribe relies on federal and not state law for its ability to offer this gaming, there’s not a lot going on in North Carolina as far as land-based gambling is concerned. When you are down to just the state lottery and charitable bingo, that doesn’t add up to very much, although North Carolina is far from alone in not having anything else but this.

Allowing tribal gambling on federally controlled land has opened up numerous states that still are far away from having enough resolve to ever allow this even today, and North Carolina is certainly in this category. Even after the tribe was given this right by way of federal law, North Carolina did their best to stand in the way, where for a time they did get the tribe to agree that whatever games they offered had an element of skill or dexterity in them.

This led to some pretty unusually configured slot machines, where players would exercise manual control over the spinning of the wheels instead of this happening automatically by pulling the lever. While the intention on the part of the state may have been to delimit games, like California’s requirement of their Indian casinos to confine their offerings to games played by cards, it just resulted in odd workarounds to offer the same games essentially.

The California tribes merely changed the format of classic casino games to involve cards, like placing cards on roulette wheels or using cards instead of dice to play craps, which presumably made California legislators happy enough even though it’s impossible to make sense of any of this. The North Carolina Indians came up with a similar workaround to initially appease state legislators, although this particular charade was ended mercifully and North Carolina’s two tribal casinos no longer have to pretend that slots is a game of skill.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have kept their original high-stakes bingo hall in addition to their two Harrah’s branded casinos, with Harrah’s Cherokee first opening in 1997. Under the original compact, the casino was limited to these modified slot machines, which continued until 2012, when a new compact with the state was agreed upon that allowed the casino to offer table games as well.

A second tribal casino, the Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River casino, was completed in 2015, bringing the number of casinos in North Carolina up to the present count of two. In 2013, the Catawba tribe of neighboring South Carolina got county approval to build a $600 million casino in North Carolina, although this was opposed by not only the North Carolina Cherokees but the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in addition to the state legislature.

This issue is still being fought in the courts and to date those who oppose this expansion have been able to forestall it. In 2020, the U.S. Department of the Interior agreed to place the land in question in trust, a necessary step for the casino to be built, although the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have filed a suit to oppose the decision, claiming that tribal artifacts will be lost in the construction of this casino. Construction on it has already begun and we’ll have to see if the forces that oppose it can still stop it from opening.

The North Carolina Indians surely do not want the additional competition this would bring, and therein lies the problem with trying to expand limited land-based gambling options in states such as North Carolina that need little excuse for standing in the way of more of what they would prefer did not exist in their state anyway.

While North Carolinians await further real money casinos, they at least have these two now as an alternative to traveling to another state to gamble at a real casino. The Harrah’s Cherokee offers 3,280 slot machines, 100 casino gaming tables, a 20 table poker room and, most recently, live sports betting. It is a resort-style casino with 1,106 rooms and an array of amenities that include a 3,000 seat event center and 4 restaurants.

The Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River casino is a smaller venue but still has 300 rooms, 1,100 slots, and 70 casino tables. They also feature a food court with 4 restaurants.

North Carolina Online Casinos & Slots Gambling

There’s plenty of online gambling that goes on in North Carolina, and online gambling is ubiquitous these days, whether or not a state officially sanctions it or if players are relegated to play at sites sanctioned in foreign jurisdictions.

There is talk of North Carolina giving in to allowing online sports betting given that they now allow land-based sports betting, but if and when this happens, this will be the first and only online gambling hosted in the state. North Carolina is not a state that is very open to gambling in general, and while they had their arms twisted by the federal government in allowing tribal casinos, there isn’t anyone to twist their arm very much when it comes to authorizing casino gambling in the state in any form, including online gambling.

We’ve spoken about there being a lack of prohibition in North Carolina law for residents placing sports bets, but it turns out that when we understand the limitations of the enforceability of such laws as they may pertain to online betting, it really doesn’t make any difference what North Carolina law may say about online gambling.

There’s little doubt that betting on casino games apart from visiting one of the state’s two tribal casinos is against North Carolina state law, and we already have a case that went to appeal that listed poker as one of the games that this law prohibits apart from playing it at these casinos.

Telling people that online gambling is against the law and having the means to enforce such a law are different matters though, and this is not anything that is peculiar to North Carolina, it is simply a reality throughout the world. The first thing that you need to enforce a law is to be able to catch someone breaking it, which unfortunately for authorities who may wish to hold people to these laws is just not practical.

A lot of people don’t realize this though, and their thinking stops when they read that something is against the law, not making it to the next step which involves examining the consequences of such a law. There are many North Carolinians who gamble online for real money regardless of what their state government may wish. While most people obey the law, there is a certain buy-in that is required, and when you have a law that is seen as unjust, and there’s no real way to be caught breaking it, this ends up being persuasive enough that people will happily disobey it.

For those who choose to do so, to exercise their fundamental right to spend their money on whatever they please, in the absence of any good reason not to other than others do not find it as agreeable of a practice based upon their personal preferences, it is important to select the right real money online casinos. Especially since these online casinos are located in other countries, if you don’t have state authorities looking out for you as would be the case if this was domestically regulated, someone needs to look out for you, a role we are happy to fulfill for you.

Future of Gambling in North Carolina

The best prospect for gambling expanding notably in North Carolina is people coming to realize more that they aren’t really restricted from enjoying all the real money online gambling they wish, which in itself has the potential to expand the market and even satisfy the gambling part of it anyway.

Those who desire a land-based experience can avail themselves of either North Carolina’s two tribal casinos, both of which are modern and of a fairly high quality as far as these things go, and you can even make a vacation of it if you wish as these are casino hotels essentially.

Should the state’s third tribal casino end up opening, and this looks likely at this point, this will help South Carolina casino gamblers as well, as a better alternative to the state’s sole casino, a casino cruise.

North Carolina needs to do what some other states are doing now and come to grips with the fact that they can’t really stop gambling in their state and come to the realization that the choice is between their exercising control over this process as well as benefit by collecting tax revenue from it, or not.

This needs to start by stepping up and getting beyond the limitations of the tribal casino that they are using now, where they no longer seek to limit land-based gambling to just what this tribe can offer. It’s fine to have tribal gaming, and there’s no reason why this situation should not be allowed to continue in its present form, but the state of North Carolina needs to also consider allowing non-tribal commercial interests to set up shop as well under their guidance.

It might actually be the case that North Carolina approves of tribal-led online gambling beyond just allowing the tribe to offer online sports betting as is currently being considered, similar to what California has been seeking to do with their Indian tribes managing online gambling in their state. California has not yet been successful at this but they have numerous tribes who have not been able to come to an agreement on how this ever gets rolled out, but North Carolina has only a single tribe at the table and this would therefore not present a problem.

Once North Carolina agrees to allow the tribe to offer online sports betting to its people, the next logical step may be to allow them to offer other forms, to continue to use the tribe as a proxy where they can still maintain the illusion of not getting their own hands dirty to make the solution perhaps more politically palatable for both themselves and their electorate.

The wheels of political change often move slowly though, and while people wait for such a thing, there’s actually no need to wait, as many North Carolinians simply log on and help themselves to the many real money online gambling sites that already accept players from this state, provided that they know where to go to be ensured that the sites they play on are of the level that players would come to expect if North Carolina did sanction online gambling. Not everyone is just waiting for it to come someday.

North Carolina Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
  • Did North Carolina ever have widespread legal gambling?

    While opposition to gambling in North Carolina has always been notable, there was a time where those in favor of gambling had a lot bigger voice, enough for the state to permit their people to gamble all they want provided that the state tax it. The government even allowed this while calling gambling “evil,” although not so much that they wished to prohibit it. Money talks, but ended up losing its voice in this state, and it is only now starting to find it again.

  • Why did North Carolina end up banning all gambling?

    Back when it was a British colony, North Carolina went from unregulated and free gambling, until the government decided to tax it. By the time the 19th century rolled around, North Carolina lost its appetite for this and just banned it completely. They ended up allowing lotteries for a time but that idea became ditched. They also allowed betting on dogs for a brief time in the 20th century but that only lasted a few years before it became nixed. This was just a case of the will of the people not being behind gambling at the time.

  • What does current North Carolina law say about gambling?

    North Carolina statutes prohibit both the operation and playing of any game of chance for anything of value. This law does not apply to the state’s two Indian casinos who offer a full range of casino games of chance, where the right to offer this gaming is at the pleasure of the federal and not the state government. The state’s courts have ruled that poker is a game of chance and therefore included in their prohibited gambling, although sports betting is noticeably absent and betting on sports is not against the law here although it is presumed to be by many.

  • Why doesn’t North Carolina have horse or dog race betting?

    Plenty of states that don’t permit casino games within their borders have had betting on horse or dog racing for a very long time, as states have generally taken a less harsh view of this type of betting, at least partly because it is betting using skill and not the games of chance that North Carolinians remain firmly opposed to. North Carolina had a couple of pari-mutuel dog tracks for a time in the 1940’s, but this was short lived and has not come back to life since.

  • Why has North Carolina been so focused on chance with gambling?

    If you choose a paternalistic view of gambling as North Carolina has, where the state sees themselves with the color of right to tell people how they can spend their money, games of chance with an overall negative expectation appear worse than other gambling where the bettor has a chance to win money on balance. Opponents see gambling as a purely financial proposition and miss the fact that losing money over time is seen to be more than offset by the entertainment value received, and people need to decide themselves whether they get enough value out of their money.

  • What options do North Carolinians have for land-based gambling?

    It is perhaps ironic that in a state so opposed to people gambling with a numerical disadvantage, they have chosen the lottery and charitable bingo as their two choices, games that have a far higher numerical advantage over players than any other game and especially casino games. This is the current extent of the state’s tolerance toward gambling, but the state does have 2 Cherokee casinos on tribal land which does offer everything one expects from a casino, including sports betting now.

  • What needs to change for North Carolina to add more land-based gambling?

    North Carolina has at least warmed up to the idea of gambling in general by no longer standing in the way of their tribal casinos offering table games, and have taken this conciliation a step further by now letting them offer sports betting on their lands. The state still doesn’t show any interest in allowing these sorts of things on non-tribal land, allowing casinos that they haven’t been forced into accepting due to federal law overriding theirs, and this will only change when the people of North Carolina come to better understand that the law should require a good reason to prohibit something, and come to better realize they do not have one.

  • Does North Carolina have real money online gambling yet?

    In allowing the Cherokee to offer sports betting at their casinos, this has brought up the subject of whether they should be permitted to do so online. Providing the Indians this right would not even require any changes in the law since the Cherokee are not subject to it and it is not illegal for people in the state to bet on sports since this is not a game of chance under any reasonable conception. Allowing people to bet on games of chance either in person or online is still well outside the state’s tolerance level though and it could be quite a while before they agree to this.

  • Can North Carolinians gamble online now?

    The beauty of the internet is that we can now travel to anywhere in the world instantly and this has served to finally remove borders and bring the world together. Whether or not a state like North Carolina approves of online gambling or not has been rendered immaterial. All people need to do now is find a good site to play their favorite real money online gambling games and there just isn’t anything to stop them from playing all they want, just as if it would be the case if North Carolina provided their seal of approval to the sites.

  • What should people who wish to gamble online be aware of?

    People can easily find real money online gambling sites that will allow them to play there, but these sites aren’t going to give you an unbiased evaluation of them as they can’t get beyond this bias, nor would it even make sense for them to do so, just like an ad on TV isn’t going to tell you that their competitors make a better product. Independent expert advice like we provide is therefore not optional if you wish to avoid the bad and be directed toward the good.

Associate Writer: Geoff enjoys both live and online poker as well as casino games, and is particularly knowledgeable about the legal landscape of online gambling.

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