Gambling in North Carolina

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Legal forms of gambling in the U.S. state of North Carolina include the North Carolina Education Lottery, three Indian casinos, charitable bingo and raffles, and low-stakes "beach bingo". North Carolina has long resisted expansion of gambling, owing to its conservative Bible Belt culture.[1]

Early history[edit]

Gambling laws appeared in North Carolina as early as 1749, when the General Assembly adopted an English statute[2] that discouraged "excessive and immoderate" gambling by invalidating gambling debts greater than £100.[3] A 1753 law invalidated gambling debts of any amount, forbade gambling in public, and limited a gambler's losses to 40s in a day;[4] the cap was reduced to 5s in 1763.[5] In 1784, to raise revenue for the government, the anti-gambling law was repealed, and taxes were imposed of 8s per deck of playing cards and 10s per "box and dice".[6] New games named "A.B.C. and E.O. tables", which the legislature called "an evil species of gaming", were slapped with a £250 tax in 1785,[7] and were banned entirely, along with other gaming tables, in 1791.[8]

Lotteries were authorized on occasion to attempt to raise money for various good causes, as was common in early American history.[9] For example, a lottery to raise £200 for navigation improvements on the New River was approved in 1761,[10] and Judge Archibald Murphey was authorized in 1826 to raise up to $15,000 in a lottery to fund his work on a book of North Carolina history.[11] From 1809 to 1835, the legislature approved 62 lotteries.[12] Then, in 1835, amid a nationwide movement against lotteries, the legislature banned them.[13]

Bingo and raffles[edit]

Non-profit organizations recognized by the Secretary of State are allowed to operate bingo games for fund-raising. The organization must receive a bingo license from the Department of Public Safety, and may run no more than two games per week,[14] with prizes no higher than $500.[15] Such organizations can also run up to two raffles per year, with cash prizes not exceeding $10,000 and non-cash prizes not exceeding $50,000.[16] Bingo games with prizes of $10 or less, referred to as "beach bingo", may be run commercially with few limitations.[14]

Laws permitting bingo appeared as early as 1945, when it was legalized at fairs and exhibitions in Mecklenburg County.[17] Similar laws were passed for various counties and towns, with some (such as Guilford[18] and Carteret Counties[19]) limited to charities and other community organizations, while others (such as Surf City[20] and White Lake[21]) had no such requirement. Some bingo laws passed in 1973 also authorized the game of skilo.[22][23] Laws allowing charitable raffles, alongside bingo, in particular counties were passed in 1977.[24][25]

This patchwork system of laws was replaced in 1979 with a statewide law allowing bingo and raffles for non-profit organizations, and unregulated bingo games with prizes under $10.[26] Further regulations were enacted in 1983 requiring charitable bingo operators to be licensed by the Department of Revenue.[27]


The North Carolina Education Lottery, begun in 2006,[1] offers scratch-off games and drawing games, including the multi-jurisdictional Mega Millions and Powerball games.

Indian gaming[edit]

Two federally recognized tribes operate a total of three casinos in North Carolina. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has the Harrah's Cherokee and Harrah's Cherokee Valley River casinos on its Qualla Boundary territory in the Great Smoky Mountains. The Catawba Indian Nation operates the Catawba Two Kings Casino on tribal land in Kings Mountain. The Cherokee also operate a high-stakes bingo parlor.[28]

The Cherokee's high-stakes bingo games began in 1982, following a federal court decision that exempted Indian reservations from state limits on bingo prizes.[29] In 1994, the tribe reached a compact with Governor Jim Hunt under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, allowing construction of a casino with electronic games requiring "skill or dexterity".[30] An interim casino attached to the bingo parlor opened in January 1995,[31] and the $82-million permanent casino, managed by Harrah's Entertainment, opened in November 1997.[32] After negotiating a new compact with Governor Beverly Perdue, Harrah's Cherokee began offering table games in August 2012,[33] and the tribe was allowed to build a second casino, Harrah's Cherokee Valley River, which opened in September 2015 in Murphy, North Carolina.[34][35]

The Catawba applied in September 2013 to take land into trust for their proposed casino,[36] even though the tribe at the time had no sovereign land in the state (its main reservation is just across the state line in Rock Hill, South Carolina).[37] They opened their casino in a temporary facility in July 2021.[38]

Video poker and sweepstakes parlors[edit]

Video poker machines were once widespread in the state. Regulations enacted in 2000 limited them to three machines per location, and blocked the installation of any new machines.[39] There were an estimated 10,000 legal machines remaining in the state in 2006, plus 20,000 illegal machines.[40] The Senate made five attempts over the years to ban the game, but was blocked by House Speaker Jim Black.[40] Pressure mounted on Black after he was tied to state and federal investigations into the video poker industry, and he agreed to a one-year phase-out of the game.[41][42] A complete ban went into effect in 2007.[39]

After the ban, an industry of sweepstakes parlors arose, operating in a legal gray area by offering chances to win when customers purchase Internet or phone time.[1] The General Assembly tried to close the parlors in 2010 by outlawing any video sweepstakes with an "entertaining display",[43][44] but the ban did not take effect until January 2013 due to a legal challenge by the industry.[45] Even then, some operators said they would comply with the law with new "pre-reveal" software that shows the player their prize before the game is played.[45] As of 2019, the industry remained active, with an estimated 100 sweepstakes parlors operating in Wake County alone.[46]

Beginning around 2017, a new type of video arcade in which players can win money by playing "Fish Hunter" games began gaining popularity around the state. Operators claim the games are legal games of skill, but some authorities believe them to be illegal games of chance.[47]

Greyhound racing[edit]

Postcard of the Cavalier Kennel Club in Moyock

Two greyhound tracks with parimutuel wagering operated in the state from the late 1940s to 1954.

The General Assembly in 1939 authorized a horse or dog track to be opened outside of Morehead City.[48] The Carolina Racing Association opened its greyhound track there in 1948.[49] Races were held nightly during the summer, catering to beach tourists.[50] A similar act was passed for Currituck County in 1949,[51] and the Cavalier Kennel Club[52] in Moyock opened the same year.[50] The season there ran from October to November, and mainly attracted bettors from the Norfolk area.

The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that the Currituck racing law violated the state constitution by granting a monopoly and giving special privileges to a private entity (the racing association).[53][54] A similar decision later that year closed the Morehead City track, with the additional argument that the legislature had unconstitutionally delegated authority to town voters over a track not located in the town.[55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Mark Binker (June 3, 2012). "Over time, NC gives in on gambling". WRAL. Retrieved 2012-01-06.
  2. ^ "Acts of the North Carolina General Assembly, 1749, Chapter 1: An Act to put in Force in this Province, the several Statutes of the Kingdom of England, or South-Britain, therein particularly mentioned". The Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Volume 23. p. 324. Retrieved 2013-01-11.
  3. ^ Ward Baldwin Coe (1912). "Chapter 7: An act against deceitful, disorderly, and excessive Gaming". British Statutes in Force in Maryland, Volume 2. pp. 643–646.
  4. ^ "Acts of the North Carolina General Assembly, 1753, Chapter 1: An act to prevent excessive and deceitful Gaming". The Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Volume 25. p. 250. Retrieved 2013-01-11.
  5. ^ "Acts of the North Carolina General Assembly, 1764, Chapter 4: An act to suppress excessive and deceitful gaming". The Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Volume 23. pp. 611–613. Retrieved 2013-01-11.
  6. ^ "Acts of the North Carolina General Assembly, 1784, Chapter 3: An Act for raising a public Revenue for the support of Government, and to repeal an Act intituled, "An Act to suppress excessive gaming"". The Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Volume 24. pp. 655–658. Retrieved 2013-01-11.
  7. ^ "Acts of the North Carolina General Assembly, 1785, Chapter 8: An Additional Act to an Act, Entitled, "An Act for Raising a Public Revenue for the Support of Government," and to Repeal an Act, Entitled, "An Act to Suppress Excessive Gaming"". The Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Volume 24. p. 731. Retrieved 2013-01-11.
  8. ^ "Chapter 5: An Act for raising a Revenue for the Payment of the Civil List and contingent Charges of Government, for the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety-two, and to repeal an Act, entitled, "An additional Act, to an Act, entitled, an Act for raising a public Revenue for the Support of Government, and to repeal an Act, entitled, an Act, to suppress excessive Gaming". Laws of North Carolina. 1791. p. 5. Retrieved 2013-01-11.
  9. ^ Alan D. Watson (2003). Wilmington, North Carolina, to 1861. McFarland. p. 119. ISBN 0786414278.
  10. ^ "Acts of the North Carolina General Assembly, 1761, Chapter 4: An Act to appoint Commissioners to further improve and amend the Navigation of New River, in Onslow County, to raise a Fund by Lottery, to defray the Expence thereof". The Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Volume 23. pp. 542–544. Retrieved 2013-01-11.
  11. ^ Stephen Weeks (1914). "Historical Review of the Colonial and State Records of North Carolina". The Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Volume 30. pp. 22–28. Retrieved 2013-01-11.
  12. ^ Watson, Alan D. (October 1992). "The Lottery in Early North Carolina". The North Carolina Historical Review. 69 (4): 375. JSTOR 23521118.
  13. ^ Watson, Alan D. (October 1992). "The Lottery in Early North Carolina". The North Carolina Historical Review. 69 (4): 385. JSTOR 23521118.
  14. ^ a b North Carolina Department of Public Safety. "Bingo". Retrieved 2012-01-06.
  15. ^ "North Carolina General Statutes § 14-309.9". Retrieved 2012-01-06.
  16. ^ "North Carolina General Statutes § 14-309.15". Retrieved 2012-01-06.
  17. ^ "Chapter 650: An act relating to the game of bingo in the county of Mecklenburg". Session laws and resolutions passed by the General Assembly. 1945. p. 901. Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  18. ^ North Carolina General Assembly (1971). "Chapter 187: An act relating to the game of bingo in the County of Carteret". Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  19. ^ North Carolina General Assembly (1971). "Chapter 221: An act relating to the game of bingo in the County of Carteret". Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  20. ^ North Carolina General Assembly (1965). "Chapter 383: An act relating to the game of "bingo" in Pender County". Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  21. ^ "Chapter 1387: An act relating to the game of bingo in the town of White Lake in Bladen County". Session laws and resolutions passed by the General Assembly. 1956–1957. p. 1582. Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  22. ^ North Carolina General Assembly (1973). "Chapter 1040: An act relating to games of "bingo" and "skilo" in the Town of Henderson". Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  23. ^ North Carolina General Assembly (1973). "Chapter 11: An act relating to the games of "bingo" and "skilo" in Forsyth County". Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  24. ^ North Carolina General Assembly (1977). "Chapter 365: An act relating to raffles and the game of bingo in certain counties". Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  25. ^ North Carolina General Assembly (1977). "Chapter 491: An act relating to raffles and the game of bingo in Alamance, Buncombe, McDowell, and Mecklenburg Counties". Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  26. ^ North Carolina General Assembly (1979). "Chapter 893: An act to permit the limited operation of raffles and bingo games". Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  27. ^ North Carolina General Assembly (1983). "Chapter 896: An act to clarify, restrict and amend the law relating to the operation of bingo games and raffles". Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  28. ^ "Cherokee Tribal Bingo". Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  29. ^ "World's biggest bingo game planned". Boca Rotan News. AP. June 30, 1983.
  30. ^ Jack Horan (July 29, 1996). "Great expectations, anxiety in Cherokee over new N.C. casino". Charlotte Observer.  – via NewsBank (subscription required)
  31. ^ Jef Feeley (January 29, 1995). "1,800 visit Cherokee gambling arcade". Charlotte Observer.  – via NewsBank (subscription required)
  32. ^ Bob Williams (November 14, 1997). "Cherokee casino opens". News & Observer. Raleigh, NC.  – via NewsBank (subscription required)
  33. ^ "Cherokee casino in western NC now has live games". WCNC. AP. August 16, 2012. Retrieved 2012-01-06.
  34. ^ John Frank; Rick Rothacker (August 23, 2014). "New casino games fuel growth in Cherokee, even as potential for gambling competition looms". Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2015-09-28.
  35. ^ Dal Kalsi (September 28, 2015). "New Harrah's casino, hotel opens in Cherokee, NC Monday". WHNS-TV. Greenville, SC. Retrieved 2015-09-28.
  36. ^ Jie Jenny Zou (September 9, 2013). "Catawbas seek federal OK for casino land in NC". The Herald. Rock Hill, SC. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
  37. ^ "McCrory considers tribal casino with SC tribe". WRAL-TV. AP. August 16, 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  38. ^ Latrice Williams (July 2, 2021). "Catawba Two Kings Casino opens in Kings Mountain". The Shelby Star. Shelby, NC. Retrieved 2021-07-10.
  39. ^ a b Gary D. Robertson (July 2, 2007). "Video poker is now illegal; machines to go underground". Star-News. Wilmington, NC. AP.
  40. ^ a b Mike Baker (May 18, 2006). "Video poker a job jackpot for N.C., consultant says". Star-News. Wilmington, NC. AP. Retrieved 2018-05-12.
  41. ^ "Video poker phase-out ban nears reality after N.C. House approval". WRAL. Raleigh, NC. May 31, 2006. Retrieved 2013-01-09.
  42. ^ North Carolina General Assembly (2006). "Session Law 2006-6: An act to phase out the possession or operation of video gaming machines by limiting the number of video gaming machines that may be possessed or operated to two per location on October 1, 2006, and to one per location on March 1, 2007, and to prohibit possession or operation of video gaming machines as of July 1, 2007, except pursuant to a tribal-state compact". Retrieved 2013-01-09.
  43. ^ Chris Bagley (December 14, 2012). "N.C. high court upholds video gambling ban". Triangle Business Journal. Retrieved 2013-01-09.
  44. ^ North Carolina General Assembly (2010). "Session Law 2010-103: An act to ban the use of electronic machines and devices for sweepstakes purposes". Retrieved 2013-01-10.
  45. ^ a b Cullen Browder (January 2, 2013). "NC video sweepstakes ban begins Thursday". WRAL. Raleigh, NC. Retrieved 2013-01-09.
  46. ^ Amy Cutler (April 27, 2019). "A closer look at the growing industry of sweepstakes parlors in Wake County". WNCN-TV. Retrieved 2019-05-27.
  47. ^ Anna Douglas (August 15, 2018). "People are winning — and losing — big at this hot NC arcade trend. But is it legal?". Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2019-05-27.
  48. ^ "Chapter 540: An act creating the Morehead City Racing Commission for the Town of Morehead City in the State of North Carolina and providing for an election thereon". Public-Local Laws Enacted by the General Assembly. 1938–1939. pp. 605–609. Retrieved 2012-01-09.
  49. ^ Scoop McCrary (July 31, 1952). "Greyhound racing has become a big business at Morehead City". The Dispatch. Lexington, NC.
  50. ^ a b Betty Mitchell Gray (April 25, 1993). "Coastal residents recall heyday of the hounds". The Virginian-Pilot. Norfolk, VA.  – via NewsBank (subscription required)
  51. ^ "Chapter 541: An act creating the Currituck County Racing Commission for the County of Currituck in the State of North Carolina and providing for an election thereon". Session laws and resolutions passed by the General Assembly. 1949. pp. 543–547. Retrieved 2012-01-09.
  52. ^ "Cavalier Kennel Club hounds made happy by new gadget". The News and Courier. Charleston, SC. AP. July 20, 1952.
  53. ^ State v. Felton, 239 N.C. 575 (N.C. 1954).
  54. ^ "Third annual survey of North Carolina case law". North Carolina Law Review. 34 (1): 24–26. 1955.
  55. ^ State v. Carolina Racing Association, 241 N.C. 80 (N.C. 1954).