General Assembly lawmakers have said that discussions are underway regarding the authorization of up to four new casinos and the legalization of video gambling machines in North Carolina.
House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger informed reporters about the plans in separate press conferences. However, they also noted that plans formal legislation has yet to be authored.
The negotiations among lawmakers on the new casinos appear to be connected to extended talks over a final two-year state budget. This was supposed to have been enacted by July 1st. However, votes on any outstanding legislation from this year’s session are not likely to happen until at least early August.
Speaking to reporters Berger said:
“I would anticipate that if at the point in time when we get a budget done, we will have made a decision about (gambling) as well,”
At present, there are three casinos in the state. These are operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians or the Catawba Indian Nation. Legislators have become increasingly worried about the loss of potential tax revenues to neighboring states which have opened non-tribal casinos.
The proposals would allow casinos that are part of “entertainment districts” including hotels and restaurants as well as residential and commercial developments. These would be based in Anson, Nash and Rockingham counties. Lawmakers said that allowing the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina to run a casino in eastern North Carolina is also under discussion.
According to Moore, the Lumbees could circumvent federal tribal recognition requirements by applying for approval through the state’s licensing process instead.
The lawmakers also cited a study by a gambling research group which estimated that commercial casinos built in Nash, Anson and Rockingham counties could generate almost $1.7 billion in gross wagering revenue annually alongside significant job openings for locals.
Video gambling terminals
After a House bill underwent a hearing in May, the potential legalization of video gambling machines statewide is being considered. This bill proposes that the state Lottery Commission would oversee the regulation of these machines and permit their operation in establishments with alcohol beverage licenses. The state would receive a share of the net machine revenues as part of this arrangement. It’s worth noting that there have been ongoing efforts for the past two decades to eradicate illegal video gambling machines found in sweepstakes parlors.
This year, North Carolina legislators approved a significant expansion of legalized gambling by passing a law that permits statewide betting on sports and horse racing. The commencement of the first wagers is anticipated in the first half of 2024.
There was opposition to the sports betting measure, mainly from a coalition comprising social conservatives and liberal lawmakers who expressed concerns about the adverse impact of adult gambling addiction on families and children. The North Carolina Family Policy Council is currently mobilizing its allies to reach out to legislators, urging them to reject calls for new casinos.
However, Moore argued that there’s more support for the casino and video gambling proposal than there was for the sports betting law.
“The response that we’re hearing from legislators from those regions has been supportive because they see it as a way to really spur the economy of their region.”