North Carolina Poker & Gambling Laws

North Carolina Poker Laws

Is Online Poker / Gambling Legal in North Carolina?

North Carolina is one of many southern states which take a dim view of gambling. Most jurisdictions in the deep south have harsh anti-gambling laws. Mississippi and Louisiana cut out exceptions for casino gambling along the rivers and seaside, while Kentucky (and others) have sizable parimutuel gambling establishments. Despite being considered a little more progressive than neighboring states and having the Research Triangle of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, little indicates North Carolina has a permissive attitude towards gambling.

North Carolina gambling laws are enforced with a strict eye towards organized gaming activity like slot machines, video poker, racing bets, and lotteries besides the official state lottery. North Carolina law enforcement also focuses on what are called "Monta Carlo Nights", which is one of a half-dozen names these events have throughout the USA. Also known as millionaire parties or Las Vegas nights, these are poker events organized by companies, undocumented nonprofits, and other organizations who don't have a license for gambling.

In North Carolina, law enforcement of gaming statutes is handled by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. The specific office which handles enforcement is the Alcohol Law Enforcement Division of the DPS. These agents are sometimes known by the acronym "ALE".

Playing Poker & North Carolina Law

We know North Carolina's gambling law is fairly severe in general, but what about poker? Are there ways that poker players can participate in cash games and tournaments for real money while still staying within the boundaries of North Carolina law?

Our first goal is to determine whether or not North Carolina considers poker to be a form of gambling. The definition for gambling employed by North Carolina, found in Section 14-292, focuses on "games of chance." What the definition does not provide is any additional standards for separating games of skill from games of chance.

While this sounds like good news for poker players, many of whom would assert that poker is not a game of chance, law enforcement in North Carolina has been quite active in raiding "illegal" poker games. The position of the state, then, is that - despite the lack of clarity in state law - poker is to be considered gambling in North Carolina.

Given that fact, poker played for real money is only legal when it occurs in ways specifically permitted by North Carolina law. The major exception: Regulated casinos like Harrah's Cherokee are free to run poker rooms.

What about social gambling? States such as New York and California have carve-outs for private poker games conducted among friends, but North Carolina law has no such provision. Home poker games are an apparent violation of state law regarding gambling.

As for charitable poker, that's a tougher answer to come by. The state has sent conflicting signals about the legality of charity poker games in North Carolina. And while some forms of charitable gambling are clearly legal, poker apparently exists in a bit of a gray area. If you have any questions about the legality of a charitable poker game, your best course of action is to contact the NC Dept. of Public Safety, which is the agency responsible for charitable gambling. 

North Carolina Slot Machines and Video Poker Machines

The Tarheel State's slot machine laws are strict and wide reaching. Special distinctions are made not just for owning and operating slot machines, or even for manufacturing these devices. People also face penalties for the possession, storage, transport, or even giving away of slot machines. If a person in North Carolina does almost anything involving the slots, they are subject to fines or jail time.

Video poker machines get similar treatment. A set of 2007 laws make all forms of video poker gaming illegal inside North Carolina. The definition lawmakers give to "video poker" is large by any standards. This includes video bingo, video keno, video lotto, playing cards, video craps, pot-of-gold games, and eight liners. Obviously, traditional video poker games are outlawed, but so are video games involving any chance matching of numbers, words, symbols, or pictures. If these games involve "the random" or do not depend on the dexterity and skills of the players involved, these are illegal. One exception is the fact these video gaming machines require payment for activation, so it appears to read that free games are legal.

More NC Gambling Laws Banned

Beyond slots, video poker, banned lotteries, the North Carolina DPS, and poker nights, other forms of casino gambling are banned. While North Carolina has no current law which outlaws online gambling, North Carolina is one of those on the short list of US states which might one day attempt a ban on Internet gaming in their state. Southern states tend to give additional power to governments to enforce laws against immoral behavior and North Carolina is no different.

Learn About Other State Laws

North Carolina Native American Casinos

So you might think North Carolina is totally "anti-gambling". That isn't entirely the case, though the only permitted gambling halls are two Indian casinos associated with the Cherokee Nation. The first of these is Harrah's Cherokee Casino and Hotel in Cherokee, North Carolina, which can be reached at 1800-427-7247. The second Indian casino is the Cherokee Tribal Bingo hall, which is also in Cherokee. This establishment can be reached at 828-497-4320.

State Lottery Information

North Carolina's state lottery is called an "education lottery". This means the money is earmarked for educational spending, which is a common way to convince the electorate that some form of gambling isn't immoral. The North Carolina Education Lottery is a member state in both in the Powerball lottery and Mega Millions lottery. Among the local games offered by their state lottery are Carolina Cash 5, Pick 4, and Pick 3.

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