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Sports betting opens at Harrah’s

Casino employees stand ready to take the first bets at The Book in Cherokee. Harrah’s Cherokee photo Casino employees stand ready to take the first bets at The Book in Cherokee. Harrah’s Cherokee photo

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ new sports betting venue is now open following a ribbon-cutting ceremony held Thursday, March 18 — just in time for March Madness. 

The Book, with locations at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel in Murphy, offers plush reclining chairs and ultra high-definition screens for guests to watch the games they’re betting on. 

“I want to thank everyone who put so much hard work and dedication into bringing this venture to fruition,” Principal Chief Richard Sneed said in a statement on his Facebook page. “Our goal is always to offer our guests first-class gaming and entertainment services, so we are very proud to now add legal, safe and responsible sports betting to their experience at both of our venues.”

The Cherokee facility boasts a 90-foot screen, seven ticket-writer windows, 10 self-service betting kiosks, full beverage service and reservable space in the Fan Caves or Upper Deck for those who want a more private viewing experience. The Murphy facility has a 32-foot screen, four ticket-writer windows, five self-service kiosks, full beverage service and an additional lounge area that can be reserved for parties. 

Harrah’s Cherokee General Manager Brooks Robinson expressed his gratitude for the casino’s partnership with the EBCI, saying that casino managers are “proud to house North Carolina’s first sports betting venues and are confident that it will be an amenity our guests will enjoy.”

“The Book represents our commitment to continued growth,” added Valley River Manager Lumpy Lambert. “We are thrilled to be able to offer this new amenity to sports fans, especially on the opening day of the NCAA basketball tournament. We know our guests will thoroughly enjoy The Book and the diverse betting experience it will provide.”

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The Book is the culmination of years of collaboration between the EBCI, Caesars Entertainment and William Hill, the world’s preeminent sports betting company.

When Gov. Roy Cooper first signed the bill allowing sports betting on the Qualla Boundary in July 2019, the tribe expected to have The Book up and running within months. However, the project took significantly longer than expected to come to fruition. 

Opening The Book required approving an amendment to the tribe’s existing gaming compact with the state. After Cooper signed the bill into law, the tribe began working on the amendment with Cooper’s office, delivering a proposal on Oct. 14, 2019. 

Cooper had 180 days from that date to approve or reject the compact, but when the mid-April deadline came he still hadn’t taken action. It wasn’t until Dec. 3, 2020, that Tribal Council had the chance to vote on the Cooper-approved compact amendment. After that, it needed signatures from state officials and approval from the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, with a 45-day public comment period through the Bureau of Indian Affairs required prior to final approval.

Sports wagering is expected to bring in an additional $14 million in casino revenue, accounting for 3 to 5 percent of total casino revenue. The state expects to gain $1 to $1.5 million each year in taxes, and the compact also requires to pay $191,000 annually state regulatory costs.

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