Could North Carolina expand gaming for the second time in two years? According to a new poll, a majority of registered voters would support allowing commercial casino gambling in the state, less than a year after lawmakers legalized North Carolina sports betting.
That was one of the questions given to 760 residents in the Meredith Poll. The field survey was conducted by the organization based in the Raleigh college’s Department of History, Political Science and International Studies at the end of last month. In addition to asking voters about their national and in-state political preferences for the upcoming election cycle, the poll also asked them about policy issues that may go before the North Carolina General Assembly when it convenes its 2024 session in April.
According to the poll, 57% said they would strongly (24%) or somewhat (33%) support a measure allowing commercial casinos to be regulated by the state. Only 35% offered opposition, with 16% somewhat and 19% strongly against the proposal.
After lawmakers passed statewide North Carolina online sports betting last June, some legislative leaders proposed allowing as many as four commercial casinos in central and eastern parts of the state. While that proposal eventually faded, many expect lawmakers to consider it again.
Three casinos are already in North Carolina, including the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. They are operated by two tribes – the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Catawba Nation – located in the state's western and southern regions.
Support Across The Board
The consideration of commercial casinos in North Carolina comes as four such properties have opened in neighboring Virginia. Three of those are within 20 miles of the North Carolina state line.
Not only does the survey show a majority back opening casinos across the state, but expanding gaming options also enjoys strong support across nearly all demographic categories. Politically, 60.5% of Democratic voters voiced support, followed by 54.9% of Republicans and 53% of independents.
Among ethnic groups, Caucasians back it at 56.2%, while 52.3% of Black voters supported it. Casino gaming also drew 54.6% from Asian, Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders and 50.1% from the Hispanic and Latino communities.
Every age segment within the poll also had majority support for legalizing North Carolina casinos. The strongest support came from the 41-56 bloc, with 60.4% of its members backing it. Those between 25 and 40 gave it 59% support, while casinos were backed by 57.6% of voters under 24. The two oldest groups, 57-75 and 76-and-up, expressed the strongest opposition, but even so, they still supported it at rates of 53.3% and 52.1%, respectively.
Meredith Poll Director Michael McLennan says most residents “seem accustomed” to various types of gaming.
“We have the lottery and have just adopted online sports wagering in the state,” he said. “Plus, many states, including those on the border of the state, now have casino gambling, so even citizens who might have had objections to casino gambling 20 years ago might be resigned to the fact that all forms of gambling are inevitable.”
The survey had a confidence interval of plus or minus 3.5%.
Casinos Were Nearly A Reality In 2023
Last year, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Eden, backed a plan to allow four casinos to open in the state. One would have been awarded the Lumbee Tribe, and the other three would have been put up for competitive bidding for sites in Anson, Nash, and Rockingham counties. It also included video gaming terminals that could be installed statewide at locations with specific liquor licenses.
However, a deal Berger thought he had with House leaders fell through after most House Republicans opposed it. It was also met with opposition in Rockingham County, part of Berger’s district.
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