Republicans in North Carolina Lack Consensus on the Issue of Casinos

Posted on: September 6, 2023, 07:19h. 

Last updated on: September 6, 2023, 07:21h.

North Carolina Republicans, who hold majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, are currently discussing the possibility of legalizing commercial casinos. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) states that the party is beginning to gauge support for the gambling initiative among its members.

North Carolina casinos commercial gambling
Joni Robbins, a Nash County resident, speaks in opposition to North Carolina lawmakers mulling commercial casinos. Nash County is one of three counties being targeted for a commercial casino resort. (Image: The News & Observer)

In June, state lawmakers and Gov. Roy Cooper (D) legalized online sports betting, with the North Carolina Education Lottery authorized to issue up to 12 online sportsbook licenses. Each license costs $1 million and lasts for five years, with a tax rate of 18% on gross sports betting revenue.

North Carolina’s online sportsbooks are scheduled to launch in early 2024. However, some GOP leaders have become interested in the potential tax and revenue benefits of expanded gaming, leading to discussions on full-scale casinos. Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) spearheaded the casino effort following the passage of the sports betting bill.

Berger is advocating for a casino provision to be included in the state’s budget bill, which will be voted on next week. Berger has proposed the establishment of a casino resort in Rockingham, Anson, and Nash counties.

The Senate leader has also suggested granting exclusive development rights for all three properties to The Cordish Companies. Cordish, a gaming and hospitality firm based in Baltimore, operates Live! casinos in Maryland and Pennsylvania and has made campaign contributions to North Carolina Republicans in recent campaigns.

Vote Needed

Moore recently stated that, while discussions on the casino issue are ongoing, he has instructed his legislative team to tally the support for the gaming bill among GOP members.

I want to know where our caucus stands, and we need an accurate count. We don’t have one yet,” said Moore.

GOP leaders are eager to avoid further delays in the state’s budget caused by the casino provision. The budget has already resulted in an extended legislative session.

Opponents of the casino plan argue that it will negatively impact property values, increase crime and substance abuse, and lead to gambling addiction and bankruptcy.

Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page, who believes that local voters should have the final say on whether a casino should be allowed in Rockingham, called for a county referendum to determine the community’s stance on gambling.

“When I think of ‘We the People’ in our Constitution, it reminds me who I work for. I work for the people, and our elected officials work for the people. We should never forget that,” said Page.

New GOP Members

Moore, along with Berger, believes that Raleigh should consider ending the state’s ban on commercial casinos. The idea is that allowing casinos in border towns or near major interstates would prevent gaming money from flowing out of the state, particularly to Virginia where casinos are being opened.

Much of the discussion regarding casinos has taken place behind closed doors, causing frustration among local officials and residents in the targeted counties. Approximately 50 community members from Rockingham, Nash, and Anson protested outside the Legislative Building in Raleigh yesterday, holding placards that read “Keep Our Community Great” and urging lawmakers to abandon the casino efforts.

“This is not about politics. This is about people. This is about the next generation. Our kids today face enough challenges. If you mess with our kids, we will vote you out,” said Joni Robbins, a real estate agent from Nash County.

For decades, North Carolina has opposed the expansion of commercial gaming until the passage of the sports betting bill in June. The influx of 43 new lawmakers, many of whom are younger and more open to controversial issues like gambling, has shifted the tide.

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