North Carolina Legislative Leaders Trade Barbs Over Casinos In Budget Deal

North Carolina Legislative Leaders Trade Barbs Over Casinos In Budget Deal
Fact Checked by Thomas Leary

The lack of a budget agreement between the chambers in the North Carolina General Assembly finally came to a head on Tuesday. As House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Kings Mountain, reiterated, there was no chance a spending plan could pass that included expanded gaming measures, his counterpart in the Senate blasted the House, claiming leaders there didn’t live up to its side of the bargain.

The drama in Raleigh means there will be no votes on the budget in the House this week. While a majority of House Republicans support gaming legislation, Moore has said that there’s not enough support for it among the entire 120-member House. Democratic lawmakers have not been shy about voicing their frustrations over the drawn-out negotiations between Republican leaders for a budget that was supposed to take effect months ago.

“Our state’s budget was due July 1,” state Sen. Michael Garrett, D-Greensboro, tweeted Tuesday. “Our kid’s (sic) classrooms need teachers, busses need drivers, and hundreds of thousands of our neighbors need healthcare. Our children and North Carolina families are paying the price of this high stakes game of chicken over . . . casinos.”

The budget impasse also drew the ire of Gov. Roy Cooper, who signed the bill to expand North Carolina sports betting earlier this year. The Democrat told reporters it was “outrageous” the state’s budget could be held up over gaming issues.

Berger Pushes for Casino Budget Vote In House

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Eden, told reporters that Republican legislative leaders had an understanding throughout the budget talks. If a majority of the caucus supported a specific provision, it would be included in the final budget. Berger said Moore had told him that at least 40 members of the 72-member caucus back casinos and VGTs, leading him to believe the House GOP caucus would vote for it.

That understanding apparently broke down over the weekend, Berger said. Still, he said the Senate is ready to pass a budget that includes gaming, and he told WRAL Tuesday that House leaders should call lawmakers’ bluff and see if they actually would vote against a budget that included them. Moore is one of the gaming supporters in the House. However, he said he would not require members to vote against their conscience. He added that it’s time to move on.

“We believe that we ought to not hold up what is otherwise a really good strong budget over one issue, on gaming,” the speaker said. Opponents of gaming “are free to vote their conscience, and for some, this was truly a conscious decision. I think we have to respect that.”

What’s in the Plan?

Should the casino and VGT legislation somehow make its way back in the budget agreement or perhaps be approved by a separate measure, it would be the second major piece of gaming legislation passed by North Carolina lawmakers in this session. Three months ago, the General Assembly voted to legalize sports betting statewide. The state’s lottery commission is already working toward launching online applications for NC betting apps and authorizing retail sportsbooks starting sometime in the first half of next year.

The plan under discussion would bring four more casinos to the state. That’s on top of three tribal casinos currently in operation. One of the four would be awarded to the Lumbee Tribe, and the other three would be put up for bidding. The state would award one operator all three casinos, slated to be built in Anson, Nash and Rockingham counties. VGT machines could also be installed across the state in establishments that held certain liquor licenses.

BetCarolina.com is your home for all casino news in the state, and we also thoroughly cover the sports scene in the state, such as an updated page on the Panthers playoff chances.

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Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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