Posted on: February 10, 2024, 12:14h.
Last updated on: February 10, 2024, 12:14h.
North Carolina lawmakers last year considered legislation to authorize commercial casinos. Though the gaming push stalled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, new polling suggests the public has an appetite for casinos in the Tar Heel State.
The February edition of the Meredith Poll, published by the private women’s liberal arts college in Raleigh, suggests that 57% of North Carolinians are open to Las Vegas-style casinos. A majority of the 760 respondents surveyed between Jan. 26-31 said they would back a state effort to legalize casino gambling with slot machines, table games, and sports betting on non-Native lands.
Twenty-four percent of the respondents said they “strongly support” legislation to allow the state to issue brick-and-mortar commercial casino licenses. Another 33% said they “somewhat support” the political undertaking.
We have the lottery and have just adopted online sports wagering in the state,” said Meredith Poll Director David McLennan. “Plus, many states, including those on the border of the state, now have casino gambling so even citizens who might have had objections to casino gambling 20 years ago might be resigned to the fact that all forms of gambling are inevitable.”
The Meredith Poll reported that 19% said they were “strongly opposed” to non-tribal casinos and 16% said they were “somewhat opposed.” The remaining percentage said they were unsure.
The poll reported a margin of error of +/- 3.5%.
Last June, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) signed the state’s first major expansion of gaming since the state lottery was authorized in 2005. The statute legalized online sports betting and retail betting at professional sports stadiums and venues.
Senate President Pro Tempore (R-Rockingham) thought the time was ripe to champion more gaming. The longtime state lawmaker discussed with The Cordish Companies, a Baltimore-based gaming and hospitality developer behind Live!-branded casinos and mixed-use entertainment complexes, about developing casinos in the counties of Anson, Nash, and Rockingham.
Cordish and Berger faced criticism for the seemingly backroom deal. Numerous Cordish executives were found to have funneled campaign money to Berger and other state Republican lawmakers, and local officials and residents in the targeted counties voiced frustrations for not being included in the early casino discussions.
Berger tried to tack the casino provision onto the state’s 2023-25 budget. But after House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), who initially supported the gaming effort, said he couldn’t muster enough support in the chamber, the casino item was cut.
Moore scolded Berger for holding up the budget.
“It’s outrageous that casinos are holding up the entire state budget,” Moore said last fall. “It’s holding up investments in our public schools, health care and mental health, law enforcement, state employees, and community colleges. They [Republicans] put gambling ahead of life-saving health care.”
Casino Bills Likely
Berger and Moore have suggested they will introduce standalone casino bills during the state’s 2024 legislative session, which convenes on April 24 and runs through July.
The Meredith Poll suggests public opinions continue to shift on the gaming question. Last August, a poll found that 54% of likely voters would lend support to commercial casinos.
However, 76% of the survey participants said lawmakers should put the issue up for a statewide ballot referendum. A referendum isn’t legally needed, as state lawmakers in North Carolina possess the power to expand gaming because the state Constitution doesn’t explicitly ban it.