While powerful state Republicans may be pushing hard to legalize casino resorts in North Carolina, a recent poll shows the overwhelming majority of residents want a say in the decision, according to a report from Casino.org.
Republican legislative leaders have been focusing on expanding casino gambling beyond those that are owned by American Indian tribes (of which there are three in the state). Republicans heavily supported the recent effort to allow online sports betting and they are now considering legislation to allow casinos to open in Nash, Anson and Rockingham counties, as well as potentially letting the Lumbee tribe run a casino in the southeastern part of the state.
So far, most of the negotiations that have taken place surrounding these casinos have been held in private, closed-door sessions without input from Democrats or the general public.
Many local officials in the impacted towns and counties have said they have been left out of the discussions so far and residents in these areas are also upset.
Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) is desperately trying to get a casino approved in his home county. Luckily for him one of his sons, Kevin, is the chair of the Rockingham Board of County Commissioners. That has helped his bid but also raised concerns that locals opposed to the casino (and there are many) won’t get to have their say.
Adding to the concern around Berger’s casino push is the fact that it appears he already has a “handshake agreement in place” giving Cordish Companies, a Baltimore-based gaming firm, exclusive rights to the three casinos if they are approved. A recent investigation looked at how much money Cordish has given to Berger and other state leaders in the form of campaign contributions.
According to Casino.org, a poll conducted Aug. 20-21 by Washington, D.C.-based polling and analytical firm Cygnal showed that more than 75% of “likely general election voters” in North Carolina want a statewide referendum on casinos.
The poll showed that these likely voters believe the North Carolina General Assembly “shouldn’t authorize Las Vegas-style casinos unless a statewide referendum on the matter shows adequate support for commercial gambling.” Only 16% said they don’t want a statewide casino referendum.
The irony of the poll is that, by a wide margin, those surveyed are fine with legalizing casino gambling – 55% are in favor and 32% are opposed – but they want to have a say in that decision and don’t want legislators making any decisions without input from those who will be impacted by these massive casinos.
More than 60% of respondents said they believe casinos would provide more tax revenue and that those funds could be used to fund the state budget that Republicans have been neglecting or helping pay for public education and health care costs.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), who is also in support of casino gambling as well as expanding video lottery terminals, told CBS 17 that no final decision has been made at this time.
My understanding is all of the legislators who represent those areas are supportive of the measure,” Moore explained. “But at the end of the day, we haven’t had a definitive proposal laid on the table for caucus members to discuss, for them to weigh in one way or another. It’s all been a conceptual discussion.”
Moore also said that having a statewide referendum would be “unusual” since the legislature has the power to determine laws on gambling without any input from residents. He did say that “at some point” those in the targeted communities will get to weigh in.