By Beth Lawrence

Visitors to Harrah’s Cherokee and Murphy casinos will soon have another option to wager on; plans are in the works to open a sports betting parlor in each location.

“We expect to begin taking bets on collegiate and professional sports soon; however, a date has not been set,” said Brian Saunooke, regional vice president of marketing for Harrah’s. “The sports book projects at the resort in Cherokee and the casino in Murphy are very closely linked, and will open around the same time.”

The bill allowing for sports betting in North Carolina was sponsored by state Sen. Jim Davis (R-Macon). It was signed into law in July. The law adds gambling on sports to a list of authorized Class III games allowed at the casino run by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Customers have been asking about sports betting since the casino opened more than two decades ago, Saunooke said.

Both betting parlors will be called The Book, and visitors will be allowed to pop in and place a bet or hang out and watch games either with other patrons or in separate rooms.

“The Book at Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River will be focused on providing a premier viewing experience in a comfortable setting,” Saunooke said. “While The Book at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort will occupy a larger space, feature larger viewing screens and also offer ‘fan caves’ where groups can reserve their own private viewing rooms.”

Patrons can watch live games on video walls and wager on those games as well as betting on future games like the next Super Bowl or Stanley Cup Championship once betting lines are established.

First offerings will only allow for betting on collegiate and professional sports but will open up to horse racing in the spring.

“Visitors who may have visited a sports book in Las Vegas will have a sense of familiarity when they visit the Cherokee sports books,” Saunooke said. “The atmosphere is going to be built around the viewing experience, and should really have some great energy; especially during the playoff seasons.”

Food and drinks will be available at both venues, but capacity numbers for people and bets has not been established yet. 

Under the new law, bets can only be placed at the two tribal facilities, and no online wagers can be made.

The opportunity for legalized sports betting was created in May 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 6-3 ruling, in “Murphy v. the National Collegiate Athletic Association” that laws prohibiting “state authorization and licensing of sports gambling schemes violate the Constitution’s anti-commandeering rule.”