North Carolina Senate President Phil Berger is optimistic about further expansion of state-sanctioned gambling. It could work out before legislators end this year’s regular business later this summer, Associated Press reported.
The General Assembly still hasn’t adjourned as House and Senate Republicans discuss obstacles in the state government budget, which was supposed to take effect earlier this month. Meanwhile, chamber leaders’ talks continue whether to allow casinos on non-tribal lands, approve and regulate video lottery terminals (VLTs), or both.
State-sanctioned gambling expansion chances “better than 50-50”
Berger was asked about the chances that legislation allowing the combination of new gambling would reach Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk this summer, within or separate from a budget agreement. According to AP, one of North Carolina’s most powerful legislators, Berger responded: “I’d say better than 50-50.”
He also added it is a “serious discussion.”
Last month, the legislature enacted a law allowing NC sports betting and horse racing, with the launch expected in the first half of 2024. That move marks the legislature’s largest gambling expansion since establishing a state lottery in 2005. Gov. Cooper signed the sports gambling bill into law to public fanfare.
NC senator concerned Virginia casinos would attract NC residents
There are currently three North Carolina casinos operated by two Indian tribes. Two casinos are in the western part of the state, while one is 35 miles away from Charlotte.
Berger is concerned casinos that have opened recently in Virginia near the North Carolina border would attract many North Carolina residents.
“The gaming is already taking place in North Carolina, and gaming is taking place on the border of North Carolina that is pulling money out of North Carolina,” Berger said, according to AP.
The authorization of further gambling could also face an obstacle among social conservatives. They argue the benefits of casinos are not worth the harm that gambling addiction can cause.
Some state budget differences remain in place
A chief House budget negotiator, Rep. Jason Saine, already told PlayUSA he believed VLTs and casinos could be included in the budget.
But Saine said he isn’t sure how his colleagues would react to gambling expansion since the Senate still hasn’t delivered a proposal.
Such proposal could include a few details, like:
- How many casinos would be allowed
- Whether construction would be contingent on local referendums
- The state’s revenue cut
Berger and Saine verified that budget differences still exist over the amount of a tax-reduction package and how to distribute reserves for capital projects and economic development. They believe a deal might not be final until August.