Voters Should Be Included in the Conversation about North Carolina Casinos

Voters in North Carolina Demand a Say in Casino Authorization

Posted on: August 28, 2023, 12:52h. 

Last updated on: August 27, 2023, 12:57h.

New polling data from North Carolina indicates that state voters are eager to have a say in whether commercial casinos should be permitted in the Tar Heel State.

North Carolina casinos gaming referendum
Early voters in North Carolina complete their ballots on Oct. 16, 2020. A new poll finds that a significant majority of North Carolina voters believe a statewide gaming referendum should be held if Raleigh lawmakers want to authorize commercial casinos. (Image: Getty)

Following the passage of a sports betting measure in June, state officials in North Carolina have been privately discussing whether to authorize commercial casino resorts.

Phil Berger, the Senate leader from Rockingham, has proposed allowing a single casino in Rockingham, Anson, and Nash counties. Other powerful Republicans have joined him in this effort.

Local officials in the targeted counties, however, feel excluded from these discussions, causing frustration among county governments and residents who oppose the idea of a casino in their communities.

Public Demands a Voice

According to a recent poll conducted by Cygnal, a DC-based polling and analytical firm, approximately 76% of likely general election voters in North Carolina believe that Las Vegas-style casinos should not be authorized by the General Assembly without a statewide referendum demonstrating sufficient support for commercial gambling. Only 16% of respondents disagreed with the idea of a statewide gaming referendum.

The poll also revealed that just over half of the voters support Berger’s gaming initiative. Of those surveyed, nearly 55% expressed their support for the state passing a law to legalize casino gambling, while only 32% were against it.

Supporters of casino legalization in North Carolina primarily cited the potential economic benefits as their main reason for backing the idea, while opponents raised concerns about the social and ethical implications of gambling.

Additionally, more than 60% of respondents believe that casinos would generate additional tax revenue that could be utilized for the state budget, public education, and healthcare.

Currently, North Carolina is home to only three tribal casinos.

No Immediate Decision Expected

In response to the casino polling results, House Speaker Tim Moore, who supports Berger’s efforts to bring commercial casinos to North Carolina, stated that no definitive decisions have been made.

According to my understanding, all legislators who represent those areas are in favor of the measure,” explained Moore. “However, we have yet to receive a specific proposal for caucus members to discuss and provide their input. The discussions have been purely conceptual so far.

Moore also mentioned that a statewide referendum would be considered “unusual” since the General Assembly has the authority to determine gambling laws without a referendum requirement. This sets North Carolina apart from other states where state constitutions explicitly forbid most forms of gambling.

Moore emphasized that local officials and the communities targeted for casino development will eventually have the opportunity to voice their opinions if the state moves forward with the casino plans.

Adding to the controversy, there are rumors that Berger has reached a handshake agreement with The Cordish Companies, a Baltimore-based gaming and hospitality firm, to secure exclusive rights to the three casinos if they are authorized. Cordish has made significant campaign contributions to Berger and other state leaders since 2022.

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