Nash County Advocates for Residents’ Right to Decide on Casino Development


Nash County Board of Commissioners Approve Casino Referendum in Anticipation of Legalized Gambling

Posted on: August 4, 2023, 02:11h. 

Last updated on: August 3, 2023, 04:30h.

Nash County in North Carolina is making preparations for a possible casino, as the Board of Commissioners recently voted 6-1 in favor of an ordinance that seeks state approval for a local referendum. This move comes in anticipation of potential legislation that may legalize commercial gambling in the state.

Nash County North Carolina casinos
Signs on Interstate 95 north of Richmond, Va., show the Virginia capital beltway. Local officials in Nash County, NC, which is home to Rocky Mount where a commercial casino is being considered, want to ask their voters about gambling before such a project would be authorized on the state level. (Image: Flickr)

The potential legislation being considered in Raleigh could permit a single commercial casino in three counties, including Nash County. Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger is a key advocate for the gaming effort, citing the outflow of money to neighboring Virginia casinos as a reason to reconsider the current gambling restrictions in North Carolina.

However, the lack of transparency regarding the discussions on casino plans has sparked frustration among residents and county officials in the targeted areas. They believe that the decision on whether or not to allow a casino should rest with the local community.

As of now, no formal casino bill has been introduced to the General Assembly. Berger is reportedly exploring the option of attaching the measure to the legislature’s budget bill, which is currently under discussion.

Empowering Nash County

Constituents are demanding that the six Nash County Commissioners who voted in favor of the casino referendum have the final say in the matter. They argue that state lawmakers should not make the decision on behalf of the local community.

Nash County, located along Interstate 95, has the potential to be a strategic location for a casino due to its accessibility. While some county officials claim they are unaware of the current status of the casino discussions, Commission Chair Robbie Davis confirmed attending a meeting several months ago where a casino plan targeting Rocky Mount, a city within the county, was presented.

Davis, bound by a nondisclosure agreement, was unable to disclose the details of the casino proposal. However, he firmly believes that the residents of Nash County should be given the definitive voice in this decision.

According to Davis, “It will be a controversial decision. I have found in my 21 years of being a commissioner that the fairest way of dealing with controversial items to your voters is giving them a chance to be involved with it.”

Davis opposes the idea of a casino in Nash County due to concerns about the area’s economic situation. He believes that a casino might exacerbate the county’s existing poverty issues and emphasizes the importance of granting the community the opportunity to express their opinions.

However, Nash County is currently unable to hold a referendum without state approval. If state lawmakers support Berger’s bill and authorize the construction of casinos in the county, the recently passed referendum ordinance would be presented to the state legislators in Raleigh, allowing them to consider its approval.

Support from Rocky Mount

While the majority of Nash County Commissioners favor a local referendum, at least one elected official is in favor of a casino resort in the area. Rocky Mount Mayor Sandy Roberson believes that a casino could enhance the city’s appeal and create a vibrant environment for residents and visitors.

According to Mayor Roberson, “It’s about creating this live-work environment where people want to move to your location. The services, the restaurants, the entertainment, the experiences … that’s really the driver.”

Under Berger’s proposal, each casino in the three counties would be required to invest $500 million in the development and provide employment for a minimum of 1,750 individuals.

Notably, Nash County Commissioner Marvin Arrington was the sole dissenting vote against the casino referendum. He believes that only voters in the targeted host city should have a say in the matter.

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