A complaint filed in late May accuses the video poker industry of illegally giving nearly $900,000 to committees and candidates – including Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson – between 2019 and 2022, according to WRAL.
Bob Hall, former executive director of Democracy North Carolina, filed the complaint, claiming that the North Carolina Coin Operators Association (NCCOA) “conspired to donate a record amount of money in a coordinated manner that circumvented reporting obligations for political action committees.”
According to Hall, the NCCOA didn’t register as a Political Action Committee (PAC) and therefore didn’t abide by limits placed on PACs.
“Instead, they bundled their money and delivered it as one contribution, essentially,” Hall said. “But, it’s way more than the $5,600 [limit]. So, they’re kind of circumventing the law by bundling the money and giving it to their legislators.”
Hall filed the complaint with the North Carolina Board of Elections. The complaint says that the donations were done by bundling checks from video poker donors that ranged from $50 to $5,600. The NCCOA donated $885,000 to candidates and committees.
“We don’t want an industry flourishing that is into bribery,” Hall said.
Video poker has been illegal in North Carolina since 2007, but potential loopholes have consistently been exploited by gaming companies, which has resulted in one ban after another getting tied up in the legal system.
Those fights could be coming to an end. House Bill 512 would allow the North Carolina lottery to team up with gaming companies to allow “video lottery terminals” throughout the state. The bill also includes funding for cost-free community colleges and an increase in appropriations to HBCUs. The bill has had just one hearing in a House committee and is unlikely to pass, though, according to WRAL.
“We just want our legislators to pay attention to the merits of legislation that comes before them and not be swayed by bribes,” Hall said.
Some of those politicians who have received donations from NCCOA include Moore ($22,200), Robinson ($7,275), Republican state Sen. Michael Lee ($25,400), Republican Rep. Tricia Cotham ($5,600), House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Destin Hall ($39,900 ) and Berger ($38,100).
Moore is no stranger to big checks from those involved in the gaming industry. He had previously received more than $30,000 in campaign contributions from employees of commercial developer Metcon, including $25,000 from the company’s president. Metcon was the construction partner of Sky Boat Gaming, a company that was interested in a proposed Catawba Indian Casino project in Moore’s home county of Cleveland. Moore represented Sky Boat Gaming as a private attorney and publicly pushed for the project’s approval in the local press.
The Catawba Two Kings Casino is currently open in a temporary building off Interstate 85 but work on the permanent $275 million Las Vegas-style casino is years behind schedule due to federal investigations into violations involving the casino and Sky Boat Gaming, according to Spectrum 1 News.
WRAL reached out to the NCCOA and multiple lawmakers who received donations. The NCCOA declined an interview and no lawmakers responded to WRAL’s requests.