Published: August 22, 2023, 08:44h.
Last updated: August 22, 2023, 08:45h.
The Rockingham County Board of Commissioners approved a rezoning request that could pave the way for a new commercial enterprise on a 192-acre plot of land in Stokesdale, North Carolina.
Casino.org reported last month that The Cordish Companies is in talks to purchase the land from a Rockingham landowner. The potential buyer, NC Development Holdings, is interested in developing a casino resort on the property.
The property is currently listed as “pending” with an asking price of $5.5 million. Cordish is known for operating casinos in Maryland and Pennsylvania, as well as entertainment districts in multiple states.
State Senator Phil Berger is pushing for the legalization of commercial casinos in three North Carolina counties. Berger argues that legalizing gambling will prevent gaming revenue from leaving the state and going to casinos in Virginia.
Despite opposition from residents, the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the rezoning request. The approval does not guarantee the establishment of a casino but opens the possibility for Cordish to build a Las Vegas-style resort if state lawmakers support the gaming bill.
Numerous community members protested the rezoning application, expressing their opposition to a casino in their area. Signs reading “Keep Our Community Great! NO CASINO!” were displayed during the meeting.
Kelly Demry, a Rockingham County resident and mother, urged the commissioners to make the right decision, stating that a vote in favor of the casino would result in a “no” vote for their re-election.
Commissioners explained that the area has been designated for commercial development since 1998 and that the rezoning aligns with previous land-use plans.
Commissioner Houston Barrow emphasized that the land had been available for purchase by anyone, stating, “Anyone could have purchased this land. It’s been for sale.”
Commissioner Mark Richardson acknowledged the difficulty of the decision but expressed the board’s responsibility to act in the best interest of the county’s residents.
One of the five commissioners who voted in favor of the rezoning request was Kevin Berger, the son of Senator Phil Berger.
If the casino bill is approved, each of the three commercial casinos would be required to employ a minimum of 1,750 people. Senator Phil Berger also highlighted the potential tax revenue that host counties would receive from the gambling and entertainment district. Nash and Anson counties are included in Berger’s proposed gaming statute, in addition to Rockingham County.
Opponents of the casino expressed concerns about issues commonly associated with new casino developments, such as increased crime, violence, and bankruptcies. The owner of Camp Carefree, Chis Rodenbough, argued that a neighboring casino would have a negative impact on the camp and the community.
Rodenbough stated, “This is not something that’s going to be reversible. It’s going to be detrimental to this camp and to the community and to the people who live here because gambling doesn’t bring out sweetness and light.”