In a surprising turn of events, key Republican figures in the Raleigh capital, including North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, have hit pause on their efforts to introduce commercial casinos into the state during 2022. However, according to industry insiders, it is more than likely that this pause is merely temporary, with the expectation that they will redouble their efforts in the coming year.
Earlier this year, despite decades of opposition and heated debates, the North Carolina General Assembly gave an unexpected stamp of approval to online and in-person sports betting at professional sports venues. This breakthrough led Berger to develop a bold plan to introduce a commercial gaming provision into North Carolina’s 2023-25 budget bill. He was confident that Democrats, buoyed by their Republican colleagues’ support for the expansion of healthcare access via the Affordable Care Act, would back the initiative.
However, Moore was amongst those who acknowledged that the strategy – which pitched the legalization of casinos in specific counties via the state budget – was flawed. In discussions with reporters, Moore suggested that a more traditional and transparent approach to the legalization of such an important sector as gambling should be adopted. He stated that the process probably seemed “doomed” from the start, particularly as key interested parties, including officials and residents of the nominated counties of Rockingham, Anson, and Nash, were excluded from the process.
While 2023 will likely not mark the advent of commercially legalized casinos in North Carolina, Moore remains confident that 2024 could be the year that the state rolls the dice and emerges victorious. However, he was clear that he would not lead the charge in the selected counties. Rather, he advised that local advocates should be the one to rally support for the casino setup.
The commercial casino push in North Carolina has been further shadowed by the suspicion of an underground agreement struck between Berger and The Cordish Companies, a Baltimore-based firm which operates multiple casinos in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The arrangement would reportedly result in lucrative contracts awarded to The Cordish Companies for each new casino development.
While controversies swirl, it’s clear that the tale of commercial gaming legalization in North Carolina is far from over. Indeed, the trials, tribulations and potential triumphs of the gambling industry make for compelling reading for anyone interested in the sector.
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