NC Sports Betting Bill on the Move

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A bill that seeks to legalize online sports betting in North Carolina is expected to get a legislative committee hearing in the coming days. Although this is an early step in a long process, it’s a sign that the measure is gaining traction.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said Tuesday after noon that SB 688 will finally move this week from from the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations, where it was referred to last April 8 after a first reading.

The movement means that the legislative measure got the nod from the Senate Republican caucus which is a key arbiter for the bill’s chances. Lead sponsor Sen. Jim Perry said that there’s a “reasonable amount of support from the caucus to move forward” with committee discussion. But he expects additions and changes, as bills often do in the House.

12 Online Licenses

Senate Bill 688 would permit 12 online licenses to be issues and allow sports professional sports facilities and venues that host more than 17,000 fans to receive licenses as well. These include facilities that are home to North American professional sports teams like the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

Under the bill, the operators will be regulated by the state and taxed 8% of their sports betting revenues. Legal North Carolina sports betting is expected to generate tens of millions of dollars for the state. The revenue will go to areas in North Carolina that need development.

Legal Wagers Outside Tribal Casinos

North Carolina’s current law permits sports gambling but only at tribal casinos. Harrah’s Casino, located at the mountains of western North Carolina and operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, recently opened a sports betting facility earlier this year inside the property.

The Catawba Two Kings Casino in Kings Mountain, currently operating at a temporary site, will also be allowed to operate legal sports betting and it is expected to do once it is completed. The Casino Two Kings Casino’s main $273M facility will open with an introductory phase at the end of this year.

Catawba Two Kings Casino Set for July 1 Pre-Launch

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Thursday will be a milestone for the Catawba Nation as its Catawba Two Kings Casino”pre-launch” facility will open to the public.

The launch comes after the federal government approved the revenue sharing pact between the Catawba Nation and the state of North Carolina. That agreement was signed off by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs last March.

Pre-Launch Site

Constructed using prefabricated modulars, the pre-launch site in Kings Mountain, North Carolina is set to offer 500 slot machines spread across 14,700 square feet of gaming area.

The initial casino will be smoke-free but smoking areas will be designated outside the temporary casino. Aside from a snack bar and service bar, food trucks will also be positioned in the property.

The construction of the pre-launch site began three months ago and it has employed 250 people on site. According to Catawba assistant chief Jason Harris, around 25% of the construction workers are from the tribe, including all the slot technicians.

Construction of Permanent Facility

The next phase of the master plan begins later this year when construction of the $273M permanent casino at the same site commences. That part of the project broke ground in July 2020 and is expected to be completed in about a year.

Situated off Dixon School Road in Kings Mountain, Cleveland County, the 17-acre site is near Interstate 85 and about 35 miles west off Charlotte. Once completed, it will have a total of 1,800 slot machines and gaming table seats.

The Catawba Two Kings Casino will employ 2,600 employees but its residual impact will create thousands more. According to officials, an estimated 4,000 permanent jobs will open up for the community.

Years in the Making

The Catawba Nation has been pursuing a casino for eight years now. However, their initial efforts to develop one in South Carolina, where they have a property in near Rock Hill, failed.

Then on March 2020, the US Department of Interior took 17 acres of land in Cleveland County into trust for the tribe in recognition of their ancestral ties to the region. At the start of this year, the Gov. Roy Cooper and the Catawba Nation agreed on a Class III gaming compact, which the Bureau of Indian Affairs approved a couple of months later.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who operate the two current casinos in North Carolina, filed a lawsuit to block the casino. However, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Catawba last April. The EBCI tribe has since filed an appeal.