Failed Casino Endeavor Threatens GOP Leader Berger’s 2024 Election Prospects


The recent unsuccessful attempt to establish a casino in North Carolina, led by Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, may possibly result in a primary opponent in the 2024 election for this GOP stalwart. Berger, the predominant leader within the Republican party of the Tar Heel state, where the GOP controls both chambers of the General Assembly, had acceded to a compromise earlier in the year with Governor Roy Cooper in relation to health care access. Cooper’s grand objective during his ongoing second term is to expand the state’s health insurance program under the framework of “Obamacare.”

In a calculated move to gain Republican support for increased state assistance for health care, Berger schemed to bring a commercial casino resort to his native county. Moreover, he proposed the introduction of single casinos in both Anson and Nash counties. Berger rationalized his motive suggesting that the casinos would bring forth new tax revenue for the state in addition to retaining gambling money that was currently migrating into neighbouring states. His attempts to draw onboard House Speaker Tim Moore and fellow representatives into the gaming segment fell short as Moore could not garner sufficient support for Berger’s gaming addition to the state’s prolonged 2023-25 budget bill.

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Notwithstanding Berger’s quest, the Senate leader alongside Moore declared on Tuesday evening that they were discontinuing the 2023 casino initiative. They resolved instead to proceed with the budget and its extended health care plan. Nevertheless, the political consequences for Berger might already be severe. Despite hailing from a predominantly Republican county, his advocacy for casinos and gambling, typically unpopular among conservatives, has bred mistrust amongst his constituents in Raleigh.

Rockingham resident Dough Isley, has launched a nonprofit titled “Citizens for Good Growth in Rockingham County” to oppose Berger’s casino endeavor. Berger has reportedly brokered a deal with The Cordish Companies, a Baltimore-based casino operator, for the construction of three casinos. This company has been a significant donor to Berger and other North Carolina Republicans.

Expressing his disappointment, Isley said, “This is not the type of work that I’ve seen him do in the past,” emphasizing Berger’s deviation from perceived conservative values. Adding to the growing dissent, Isley mentioned that if casino talks persist in the run-up to the 2024 election, an alternative candidate must be found to run against Berger, who has remained unchallenged in Republican primaries since 2014.

Significantly, the numerous yard signs found in Rockingham stating, “Keep Our Community Great. NO CASINO” shouldn’t be discarded yet, as Isley anticipates that Berger is likely to rekindle his casino campaign during the 2024 legislative session. Indicative of this was Berger’s attempt earlier this week to present a solo legislation authorizing commercial casinos. However, Berger later retracted the bill concluding that there wasn’t ample support in the House.