Gaming Disputes Halt North Carolina Budget, State Paralyzed


Struggles on the North Carolina budget bill reached a tipping point last week as negotiations over a gaming component caused a deadlock amongst the lawmakers. House Speaker, Tim Moore, revealed that the required support from his party for the gaming bill’s inclusion in the roughly $30 billion budget was lacking, leading to a standstill in discussions in the Raleigh capital.

The sticking point of the division lies in the desire of Governor Roy Cooper to introduce commercial casinos into the budget bill. However, this has only contributed to further gridlock in the negotiations. Amidst this push and pull, frustrations are reaching boiling point for the state lawmakers as consensus remains elusive.

North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore, Phil Berger, has been an advocate for the legalisation of commercial casinos in Rockingham, Nash, and Anson counties. Following the state’s June authorization of sports betting, Berger anticipated that introducing casinos in the aforementioned counties would keep gaming money within North Carolina’s borders. He hoped it would deter the flow of funds into neighboring states such as Virginia, where casinos are also opening.

In an effort to progress the stalled 2023-25 budget discussions, Berger proposed integrating a casino provision. However, the backlash from local constituents and authorities in the targeted counties led some lawmakers to withdraw their support.

The budget plan seemed to hit another stumbling block when Moore declared that the gaming bill would not proceed unless it received the endorsement of 60 of the 72 House Republicans. However, after internal consultation, it was clear the necessary backing was absent. With regard to this, Berger stated that around 40 House Republicans were still willing to sign the budget with the gaming element included. However, this would require at least 20 House Democrats to support it.

Accusing Moore of shifting his stance on whether to support casinos in the budget, the Senate leader stated that he had the necessary votes in the upper chamber to move the budget with gaming to Governor Cooper’s office.

Berger pushed for standing by commitments made and underscored that the budget was an amalgamation of compromises. He elaborated saying that even if Moore did lend his support to the gaming effort in the budget, and the House vote was in favor, it was uncertain whether Cooper would sign off the package should it include gaming.

In response to these speculations, Cooper stated that such matters should be addressed outside the budget purview and should not prevent the progression of a budget that was essential for pushing the state forward.

Reproaching the obstructive gaming element, Cooper criticized the party leaders for holding the state budget hostage. The delayed budget, originally due in June, has been a point of contention among the Senate, House members, and the Republicans and Democrats, thwarting the passage of the spending blueprint.

Despite efforts to schedule a vote on the budget this week, the division over the gaming issue pulled the plug on the proposal. A despondent Berger admitted that he had no set timeline for when the budget might pass or be put to vote.

Expressing his disappointment over the delay, Cooper said, “It’s outrageous that casinos alone are holding up the entire state budget. It’s holding up investments in our public schools, health care and mental health, law enforcement, state employees, and community colleges. It’s wrong. They [Republicans] put gambling ahead of live-saving health care for hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians.”


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