If you live in Georgia and want to place legal bets on March Madness this year, you now have two regional options.
Retail sportsbooks made their debuts at two tribal casinos in North Carolina on Thursday morning.
It’s the completion of the work by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to get their facilities ready to take bets. Even if legal online sportsbooks eventually launch in the Peach State, these books will still provide a unique experience.
Details on the new North Carolina sportsbooks
For most Georgians, one of the properties is far closer than the other. That’s the Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino in Murphy. The other property, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, is about an hour further east in the appropriately named Cherokee.
The Book, which is the name of the new sportsbook area in both facilities, opened at 10 a.m. Thursday at both sites. As Caesars manages both properties, William Hill will provide the odds and markets. Bettors can find a wide variety of markets on the upcoming NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament there.
Although the branding is identical at both facilities, the spaces are not. The Book in Murphy boasts a 32-foot video wall, four betting windows and five kiosks. Highlights of The Book in Cherokee include reclining chairs, a 90-foot video wall, seven ticket windows and 10 kiosks. Interested fans can reserve special seating areas, including fan caves, at The Book in Cherokee as well.
Online sports betting remains illegal in North Carolina, and the Eastern Band currently does not plan to offer it either. Thus, for the foreseeable future, Georgians who want to place bets online legally will have to continue traveling to Tennessee.
However, the retail experience is why both Harrah’s properties might draw traffic from all neighboring states. Right now, on the east coast and south of West Virginia, North Carolina is the only place where bettors can find brick-and-mortar sports betting.
Will The Book get Georgians hooked?
As there are no casinos or horse racing facilities in Georgia, the only current possibilities for retail sportsbooks are sporting venues like Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Senate-approved bill in the Peach State does not allow for licensing of owners of such properties, though.
It’s still possible that an amendment could change that in the House. Alternatively, future legislation could alter the state’s code in a similar way. The likely scenario at this point, however, is that the first legal sportsbooks in Georgia will be all online.
These North Carolina books will also likely offer something that future potential brick-and-mortars in Georgia won’t. The GA Senate bill bans all wagering on in-state college teams. If that provision becomes law, Georgians who want to wager on Bulldogs football will have to leave their state.
Folks from Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and (until retail books open in their state) Virginia may prefer to place their bets in person at the two Cherokee casinos in North Carolina. That’s probably what the Eastern Band is betting on.