By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Asst. Editor
CHEROKEE, N.C. – Mobile sports betting will go live in North Carolina on March 11, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) plans to be a part of that market. In a press release on Tuesday, Jan. 30, Caesars Entertainment announced an expansion of the relationship with the Tribe in this foray into mobile sports betting. It was also announced that patrons, who are at least 21-years-old, can begin with sign-ups and deposits at the Caesars Sportsbook mobile app on March 1.
“We are excited for this new venture with Caesars Entertainment and the enhancements it provides to our tribal enterprise,” Principal Chief Michell Hicks said in a press release. “We look forward to the continued opportunities that will benefit the future of our membership.”
Information in the press release by Caesars states, “The agreement furthers the partnership, granting Caesars Sportsbook with mobile sports betting market access via a license held by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise (TCGE), subject to all required regulatory approvals.”
The EBCI currently operates two Caesars Sportsbook in-person sports betting operations – one at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee, N.C. and the other at Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel in Murphy, N.C.
Eric Hession, president of Caesars Digital, said in the press release, “Our relationship with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has spanned more than two decades. Expanding this longstanding partnership allows us to build on the premier sports wagering experience enjoyed at our in-person sportsbooks by bringing a responsible way to enjoy sports at a deeper level to the hands of North Carolinians 21 and older across the state.”
He added, “We’re thankful to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and to the North Carolina State Lottery Commission and its Sports Betting Committee for making this possible, and we look forward to the launch of mobile sports betting in the Tar Heel State.”
N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper signed House Bill 347, which authorized mobile sports betting, into law on June 14, 2023 at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C. He said in a statement that day, “This legislation will help North Carolina compete, make sure taxpayers receive a share, create many good-paying jobs and foster strong economic opportunity.”
Information from Gov. Cooper’s office on the mobile sports betting states, “The legislation will create two ways to place a sports wager – in-person at a place of public accommodation or as a registered player via an interactive account. The interactive sports wagering operator would be responsible for ensuring the identity and age of any person trying to place a wager. To place a wager, a person must be at least 21 years of age.”
The sportsbook operation at Harrah’s Cherokee opened to the public at 11 a.m. on March 18, 2021. The One Feather reported at that time that the first legal bet made in the state was by a guest named Matthew Litsky who wagered for North Carolina to beat Wisconsin in the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament.
On that first day, Brooks Robinson, Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos regional senior vice president & general manager, told the One Feather, “It just brings in a different customer. It typically skews a little younger. It’s typically a customer that will tie in really good to our World Series of Poker offering that we have.”