Legal North Carolina Poker

A Guide to Poker in the State of North Carolina

North Carolina Gambling Laws in neighboring Georgiaor South Carolina. The fact they have one live poker room in tribal land is something of an achievement.

In this guide to poker in North Carolina you will first find a brief overview of gambling in the State after which the laws directly relating to poker are covered. Next you can see what options are available for live play, along with the view of online poker.

A Brief Overview of Gambling in North Carolina

Since the beginnings of the State, North Carolina has imposed a blanket ban on all gambling activities. With the exception of some bingo games the only gambling activity of any type currently permitted here is at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino.

Harrah’s and the Eastern Cherokee tribe originally teamed up and opened this casino in 1997. It was permitted after the 1988 Indian Regulatory Gaming Act permitted tribes across the US to build casinos in their reservations - providing the host State already authorized gambling activities. This was allowed in North Carolina due to the fact it provides a lottery and bingo.

The original compact only gave the casino a limited number of games. This was amended in 2012 to include table games which had an element of skill, thus allowing legal poker for the first time.

Is Poker Legal in North Carolina

Section 14-292 of North Carolina’s Statutes reads:

“…any person or organization that operates any game of chance or any person who plays at or bets on any game of chance at which any money, property or other thing of value is bet, whether the same be in stake or not, shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor”

While the authorities include poker in this classification of gambling, there is a reasonable chance the ‘skill game’ argument could be used for poker. This State has historically been very anti-gambling, so this no way is a guarantee of escaping punishment if you use it as a defense in court. Also, North Carolina has been known to tighten up ambiguous laws when they have been challenged.

As it stands currently poker is not permitted anywhere in the State other than the one tribal casino, and players caught in illegal games will be dealt with in the same manner as the organizers.

Live Poker in North Carolina

Until 2012 there was a blanket ban on poker and all table games within North Carolina. This only changed when the Cherokee tribe gained agreement to spread games which contain an element of skill. Harrah’s Cherokee now provides 20 tables in addition to electronic tables.

The casino provides a range of cash games and daily tournaments from $30 up to $120. It has also played host to a prestigious WSOP Circuit event, which hosted a number of reasonable buy-in tournaments in the two weeks around the $1125 Main Event.

Home games are not permitted here, as social games gain no legal protection. Even penny games around a kitchen table are technically illegal. Even charity poker events are not permitted, with the State’s charity gambling laws only covering raffles and bingos.

You can find some free to enter bar leagues, although this depends on which county you are in. Currently the operation of these leagues is subject to legal debate and actual enforcement on the law comes down to a local decision. 

Online Poker in North Carolina

There are no specific laws governing online poker here. Instead it is assumed the current laws cover it adequately enough, thereby making it technically illegal to play.

There are offshore sites that North Carolina residents can play on. These are operated legally from outside of the US, usually in the Caribbean. Despite many voices opposing them there are no legal restrictions specifically preventing players competing on these sites. Throughout the US there are tens of thousands of people playing on these every day without any interference from law enforcement.

Given the stance the State takes on gambling in general it seems extremely unlikely that North Carolina will permit regulated online poker within its borders. The most likely scenario which would lead to regulation would possibly only be if the majority of US states legalized online poker, and North Carolina saw potential gains in taxation. With the current stance across the country, this could be a long way off.

In Summary – New Carolina Poker

New Carolina takes a very tough stance on all gambling, including poker. There is currently only one tribal casino where games are permitted, while games elsewhere are either illegal or have some serious legal question marks over them.

Online poker is believed to be covered by the same laws, although no one has yet been arrested for playing. Given the State’s harsh line it does not seem likely regulated poker will come here any time soon.