he Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opened North Carolina’s first sports betting venues, at its two western casinos. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for The Book at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort on Thursday.
The sports book openings in Cherokee and Murphy come nearly two years after the General Assembly gave the federally recognized American Indian tribe the authority to offer this type of gambling.
Patrons can bet on pro and collegiate sports, as well as on off-site horse races. Thursday marks the first day of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The venues called “The Book” have large television screens with reclining chairs for customers, who can place bets on sporting events at ticket windows or self-serve kiosks.
Casino leaders said The Book in Cherokee and the sports betting venue in Murphy will offer patrons another attraction within a 300-mile radius, WLOS reports. “Atlanta has been a big piece of that, but also the Charlotte market, and also the Tennessee market is always big,” said Brooks Robinson, regional SVP and General Manager of Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos.
Robinson said there’s excitement opening The Book as March Madness begins. “You couldn’t pick a better day to start,” he said. He also noted it’s a big score for patrons to be able to bet on college and professional sports. They may watch events on a 90-foot screen in a venue that’s equal to anything in Las Vegas, he said. Social distancing and masks are still required because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re always looking for ways to add amenities,” Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Richard Sneed said. He said the option for sports betting came in 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that restricted sports gambling in most states. “That opened the door for states to determine for themselves whether or not they wanted to allow sports betting in their state and for tribes to do the same. So, we took full advantage of that,” Sneed said. The change in law led to tribal leaders cutting the ribbon Thursday and officially opening The Book.
Casino and tribal leaders said opening The Book is a gamble that will pay off in revenue that will add to casino monies, a good portion of which will go to Cherokee education and health care.
Cherokee leaders hope with progress on the pandemic, it won’t be too long before The Book will be packed, especially the more private fan caves.