Just three months after passing a bill legalizing North Carolina sports betting statewide, lawmakers may consider another measure to expand legalized gaming even further in the state. On Tuesday afternoon, House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Kings Mountain, told legislators in the chamber that they would be taking up a budget bill in the middle of next week in Raleigh.
That spending bill has been the major item House and Senate leaders have discussed since passing House Bill 347, the North Carolina betting apps measure, in June. One of the topics brought up during budget negotiations has been legalizing casino gaming and video lottery terminals across the state. North Carolina has three tribal casinos, but some legislative leaders have pitched the idea for three commercial casinos. That’s because casinos are being built just across Virginia's state line.
Casino Opposition Rallies in Raleigh
There’s no guarantee casino language will be included in the budget bill, but it hasn’t stopped opponents from speaking out. WFMY-TV reported Tuesday that a group from Rockingham County protested plans to put a casino in their community. Last month, the county’s Board of Commissioners approved a request to rezone a nearly 200-acre plot and allow for commercial development, which would open the door for a casino to be built on land roughly 20 miles north of Greensboro and Winston-Salem.
Rockingham is one of three counties that would get a commercial casino if the gaming measure is included in the budget. Anson and Nash are the others. Those three licenses would be awarded to one company that would commit to investing at least $500 million at each of the three sites. A fourth casino would be awarded to the Lumbee Tribe, which would be able to operate it in one of 10 counties.
While there is opposition to the proposal, recent surveys have shown strong support exists statewide. A survey of 600 North Carolina residents conducted two weeks ago for the John Locke Foundation found that 54.6% support the General Assembly passing legislation to bring casinos to the state, and only 32.1% were opposed.
When asked if voters should decide, 75.7% said they would support a statewide referendum on legalizing casinos.
Saine Opines On iGaming
While the budget could include land-based casinos, the sponsor of the sports betting bill believes North Carolina needs to think bigger. On Tuesday, state Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincolnton, wrote a guest op-ed column in the Charlotte Observer urging the state to consider legalizing online casino gaming.
“My fellow lawmakers continue to debate what gaming expansion looks like, but limiting this discussion to just brick-and-mortar casinos is a lot like building new movie theaters without allowing people to stream movies on their mobile devices,” Saine wrote. According to the lawmaker, online sports betting and iGaming have a lot in common, especially regarding consumer protections. In addition, legalizing online slots and table games could generate up to $300 million in revenue.
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