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North Carolina Poker Laws

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North Carolina Poker LawsNorth Carolina is one of the states where the issue of whether poker is to be understood as a game of chance or not is critical to whether it is to be deemed illegal or not. The law as it relates to gambling in North Carolina reads as follows:

“Section 14-492, Gambling: Except as provided in Chapter 18C of the General Statutes or in Part 2 of this Article, 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.” (1)

So betting on any game of chance for money is illegal in North Carolina, other than provisions in Chapter 18C which governs the North Carolina State Lottery, or in part 2 of this section, which concerns the allowance of gambling on tribal lands. (2). So in other words these are the only two exceptions permitted in the state to bet on games of chance.

Since the statute is silent as to how games of chance are to be defined, this has been left up to the courts to decide. There is an element of both skill and chance in the game of poker, and whether it is to be defined as a game of chance or not for the purposes of legal interpretation depends first on whether this addresses the preponderance of chance versus skill, which is widely open to debate, or whether any element of chance would suffice to fit this definition.

The North Carolina courts have thus far taken the latter definition, whereby if there is an element of chance at all in a game, it is a game of chance. In Joker Club v. Hardin, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that “since the instrumentality of victory is not entirely in a players’ hands” and that there must be “unavoidable uncertainty as to the results, chance predominates over skill in the game of poker.” (3)

Interestingly enough though, in the state’s compact with the Indians to allow gambling, one of the conditions is that the games offered include an element of skill, which includes poker. (4)

In any case, this addresses an exception to the law, although the law here is clearly too vague and poorly worded to properly set out the scope of this law, and we are left with being subject to fairly arbitrary decisions like this by the courts, but in the absence of clearer definitions, this is the only recourse.

So right now based upon the case law, poker is included in the law against gambling in North Carolina, which includes any form of poker playing not on an authorized venue on tribal lands, including home games played for money.


Live Poker In North Carolina

There is only one location in North Carolina where poker may be played legally, and that is at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, in Cherokee, NC. This casino is a joint venture between Harrah’s and the Indian tribe there, and is located on tribal land, and offers Class III gaming, including poker.

There are a total of 20 poker tables at this location, which is a rather large venue, sitting 21 stories tall and offering 1108 rooms. There is a pretty wide selection of casino games available as well. (5)


Online Poker In North Carolina

Given that playing poker for money is seen as being in violation of state law, this would extend to all poker playing, including playing poker online. There isn’t any reason to think that playing online poker in North Carolina would not consist of poker playing in North Carolina. You can’t really argue that since the game is hosted outside of the state, as is the case with online poker, the actual playing of the game did not occur in the state, since it is the playing of the game that is what is being declared illegal here.

This is what some people can get confused about, the venue may not be in the state but if playing is not legal in itself, and the bets also may be taken elsewhere, but here the law prohibits the act of playing such a game, and there is no question that the playing of the game occurs in North Carolina if you are playing it for money while physically located within the state.

This notwithstanding, authorities in North Carolina do not go after online poker players, as no state does at this time, so online poker players in North Carolina do not seem to be worried about any of this, nor does it appear that they need to be.

So if you do not wish to travel to the lone poker room in the state or visit poker rooms in other states, or play in home games, then online poker is actually the only option you have. Many North Carolina residents have come to take advantage of this option though, and if you wish to as well, there are several very good sites which are happy to allow you to do so.

Ignition Logo SmallIgnition Poker is one of these sites and comes highly recommended. Ignition Poker bought up the Bovada software and re-branded in 2016 – they have already proven to have a very good track record at providing high quality online poker to Americans, including North Carolina citizens. They offer a first deposit bonus of up to $1,000, as well as a FREE $5 casino chip to use in their online casino.

america-iconAmerica’s Cardroom is another of our top recommended poker sites and they also accept North Carolina residents. Their first time bonus deposit is the same as Ignition’s, with traffic being slightly higher though, especially at the NL Holdem and Pot Limit Omaha tables.



(1) North Carolina Statutes, 14-292.

(2) North Carolina Statutes, 14-292.2

(3) Court of Appeals of North Carolina, Joker Club v. Hardin

(4) North Carolina Legal Poker

(5)  Harrah’s Cherokee


About the Author

Sadonna Price
Author Sadonna is a mom of two and an avid poker player who also enjoys online casino games. She has been part of the online gambling industry for over a decade, working as a news and blog writer. Sadonna still plays Texas hold’em in her free time while her daily job revolves around providing insights into the online gambling world using her creativity and writing skills.