An Overview Of The Gambling Laws In North Carolina
North Carolina is one of the least gambling-friendly States in terms of legislation. What little gambling there is takes place in one big casino on Tribal land. All that remains outside of the reservation is a little charity gaming, a lottery and some very low-stakes bingo games. Anyone hoping for improvements will probably be disappointed – the track record of this State is one of progressive crack-downs on all forms of gambling, rather than progressive liberalization of their gambling laws. This article gives you all you need to know about North Carolina’s gambling laws.
First below, I have covered the rich history of gambling crack-downs in this State, in quick-fire fashion. After that you’ll see a run though of the different types of gambling games, with a current legal situation for each. Things get more detailed after that, with the key passage on gambling from the North Carolina Statutes, plus a legal timeline of changes to the gambling laws. At the end of this page you’ll find a summary and some brief thoughts on the future.
North Carolina started as they meant to go on – cracking down on gambling right from the very first time they put together their own constitution in the 1700’s. The original laws made gambling debt’s non recoverable and were targeting Pounds, Shillings and Pence, which were the currency of the time. When this did not work out they went the taxation route instead, targeting playing cards and gaming tables. Eventually, all forms of gambling were simply made illegal. Interestingly the North Carolina laws do not distinguish between organizers of games and players. Currently, both would be put on misdemeanor charges for their first offenses.
There have been some flirtations with horse and greyhound racing, however, it is a mix of bingo and a single tribal casino which keeps gambling alive in this State. Bingo takes several forms, including a high-stakes bingo parlor on Cherokee Indian land. In addition there are charity games, which are strictly regulated by the department of Revenue, and ‘beach bingo’ which is a low stakes game played mostly for fun. The maximum prize for beach bingo games is $10.
Casino gaming is only available in one big casino in this State, Harrah’s and the Eastern Cherokee tribe teamed up to build a big casino on Native Land, which opened in 1997. This got a big boost in 2012, when a second compact was negotiated allowing table games to be added. This is currently the only legal gambling venue in the entire State.
Casino Games: Yes, there is one tribal casino, which is run on native land by the Eastern Tribe of Cherokee Indians.
Online Casinos: No, there is nothing in the laws which explicitly outlaw internet games, however, as in other States, existing gambling laws are assumed to cover this area.
Live Poker: Yes, though only in the native casino. There are no provisions for social / home poker games in North Carolina and poker has been the subject of legal cases in the past which show that this is considered gambling in the eyes of the courts.
Online Poker: No, it is not thought that this State are in any hurry to join the list of States offering legal poker games given their general anti-gambling stance.
Sports Betting: No, not even on-track Pari-Mutuel betting is allowed, racing fans do travel to neighboring States to enjoy this.
Lottery Betting: Yes, the so called ‘Education Lottery’ was established in 2006, making it one of the last States to get one.
Bingo Games: Yes, there are 3 kinds of Bingo games. First, high-stakes bingo, which is run by the Cherokee Tribe. Second, charitable gambling includes bingo, though with strict limitations on both the frequency and the prizes which can be offered. Third, low stakes bingo games (with prizes under $10) which are called ‘Beach Bingo’ are allowed here.
There have been other games in this State including Video Poker, which was only recently phased out after years of legal wrangling. Internet Sweepstakes have also proven to be a thorny issue. In these games people by ‘time’ at an internet terminal in return for the chance to win prizes. These are the subject of ongoing legal battles – though if the history of this State is anything to go by, they will also be outlawed soon.
Between their older statutes, newer prohibitions, court presidents and apparent motivation to crack-down on anything new – you would have to conclude that the NC Statutes are far from gambling-friendly. While there is nothing specifically mentioning internet gambling, I would think that any legal challenge based on this would quickly result in some anti-internet laws, so the status quo is probably the best option.
Here is the key excerpt from the current North Carolina gambling laws.
Compare with other States, the penalty seems mild (some states make these offenses a Felony). However they do escalate with repeat offences. Note that both player and operator are covered in this definition. While it looks like the ‘game of skill’ could be an out for poker, this has already been classed as a gambling game in State court.
Here is the timeline for key gambling changes in North Carolina:
1749: The tone of future laws was set from the very beginning with legislation designed to crack down on gambling by invalidating gambling debts of £100 (pounds were used at the time) or more. This was decreased to 40 shillings a day, and by 1763 was down to 5 shillings.
1945: Some bingo games were exempted from the broadly worded anti-gambling statutes. There was a patchwork of laws on this subject over the next 30 years, until in 1979 a single state-wide law brought bingo games under the jurisdiction of the Department of Revenue.
1982: The Eastern Cherokee tribe begins operating a high stakes bingo parlor on their native land.
1994: Compact signed between the Cherokee tribe and then Governor Jim Hunt. The huge Harrah’s Casino on their land was opened in 1997.
2006: North Carolina’s ‘Education Lottery’ begins, offering draws and scratch-cards. This now includes inter-State games including the PowerBall.
2007: Complete ban on Video Poker machines in bars goes into effect. There had been gradual moves to phase out these machines for several years leading up to this.
2012: Following the negotiation of a new compact, the tribal casino begins offering table games.
2013: Ban goes into effect on ‘Internet Sweepstakes Parlors’ which tried to get around the anti-gambling laws by selling ‘time’ on their machines (where you could win money).
The way I look at the North Carolina gambling laws is that it is best to keep quiet, otherwise whatever you mention might be the format banned next! There are some cross border opportunities for residents, and there are no known prosecutions for playing online gambling games – though playing a game from inside North Carolina would be considered illegal whatever the method.
I can’t see North Carolina being willing to regulate online poker, casino or sports betting games any time soon.
Wiki Historical Perspective
NC Pedia (History Again)
Department Of Public Safety (Guidance)
News Bigger Casino 2013