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Here’s when you can place a legal sports bet at a North Carolina casino

Charlotte’s skyline is shown in this file photo. The city is headquarters to only one bank, Bank of America, following years of industry consolidation.
Charlotte’s skyline is shown in this file photo. The city is headquarters to only one bank, Bank of America, following years of industry consolidation. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

North Carolina’s first legal sportsbooks won’t be ready when football season opens but could be taking bets by the time college football bowl games and the NFL playoffs take place.

Now that Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law legislation allowing sports gambling at two Harrah’s tribal casinos in western N.C., casino officials can begin adding infrastructure for sports books.

Brian Saunooke, Harrah’s regional vice president of marketing, said Monday the work figures to take a few months.

“We are targeting the late fall” to have the sports books open, Saunooke said.

Harrah’s operates casinos on Cherokee tribal lands in Murphy, near the Tennessee border, and in Cherokee, just west of Asheville.

The newly adopted state law restricts wagering on sports and horse racing to those locations. It prohibits mobile betting so the bettor must be on location at either the Cherokee or Valley River casino.

Saunooke said the locations plan on offering sports gambling on a variety of sports.

“By late fall, football will be in full swing,” Saunooke said. “That’s an exciting time for sports bettors in general. We will be looking at other sports as well. We expect to have a full offering similar to what you would have in other markets, like Las Vegas.”

Once a May 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling removed the nationwide ban on sports gambling outside of Nevada, the Eastern Band of Cherokee expressed interest in adding sportsbooks at its N.C. casinos.

The Supreme Court ruling gave state legislatures the freedom to make the decision for or against sports betting. Legislation passed the N.C. Senate in April and the House on July 15. Cooper signed it into law last Friday.

“A lot of our customers have been asking about this for quite a while,” Saunooke said. “It’s an exciting option and a lot of people look to that as part of their overall gaming experience and trip.”

Saunooke said sportsbooks at both N.C. casinos will be within the existing footprint but that the Cherokee location will require an “extensive construction project.” The Valley River sportsbook will be less extensive.

Both locations will require major information technology work to support sports gambling, he said.

Harrah’s anticipates adding between 30-50 new employees at both locations to staff the sportsbooks, which will also include off-track betting capabilities allowing bettors to gamble on races at out-of-state tracks.

An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.
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