Posted on: July 25, 2023, 10:54h.
Last updated on: July 25, 2023, 11:03h.
A legislative effort in North Carolina to authorize commercial casino resorts is officially underway in the Raleigh capital.
As expected, North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) filed a draft bill this week that seeks to end the state’s prohibition on Las Vegas-style slot machines and live dealer table games. The Tar Heel State is currently home to three tribal casinos, including Harrah’s Cherokee, Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River, and Catawba Two Kings Casino.
Berger and some other Republican leaders want to expand gambling to allow commercial operations. Those in support of Berger’s measure say the recent expansion of casinos in neighboring Virginia warrants such legislative discussion in Raleigh.
Berger’s draft bill, which comes as state lawmakers remain debating a budget deal, would allow casinos in the counties of Rockingham, Anson, and Nash. Berger represents Rockingham and his son, Kevin Berger, serves as the chair of the Rockingham Board of County Commissioners.
Casino Bill Details
Berger says his efforts to authorize commercial casinos are supported by many state and local officials in the aforementioned three counties. The senator believes permitting casinos in those counties, which are border counties or traversed by Interstate 95, would keep gaming money that’s currently flowing north inside the state.
Rockingham, Anson, and Nash are rural counties that are experiencing higher poverty rates than the state average. Each county also has less than 100K residents.
The statute would require approved developers to have at least 10 years of commercial experience operating a casino and invest a minimum of $500 million into a resort. Each casino would also need to employ at least 1,750 people to retain their gaming concession. Gross gaming revenue, the draft bill proposes, would be taxed at 22.5%.
The legislation wouldn’t require local referendums for voters who reside in the county to have a say about a proposed casino, but Berger’s bill would allow county commissioners to have the final vote on a casino coming to their region.
The report back to me is that they support it,” Berger told the Greensboro News & Record about county leaders’ opinions on the gaming effort.
Berger added that the casinos would be more of “entertainment districts” than gaming halls.
“It wouldn’t be just a standalone casino,” Berger stated. “The idea would be a casino, hotel, possibly residential, commercial, and office-industrial space.”
Baltimore-based Cordish Companies has already expressed interest in building a casino in Rockingham County. The company responsible for Live! casinos in Maryland and Pennsylvania earlier this month filed a rezoning petition for about 193 acres of farmland located just west of US 220 north of Carefree Lane in Stokesdale.
The property in question is adjacent to Camp Carefree’s 65-acre grounds where children with disabilities and chronic illnesses have enjoyed their summers surrounded by nature and recreational activities over the past 37 years.
Camp owners Chris and Rhonda Rodenbough say a casino has no place in Rockingham.
We realize we are going to have to get the whole community involved,” said Chris Rodenbough. “The commissioners better realize their seats are at stake.”
A petition against a casino in Rockingham on Change.org has garnered about 1,500 signatures.