A push from lawmakers in North Carolina to authorize four new non-tribal casinos has failed. Adding the casinos was on the table for the state’s two-year budget.
However, legislators chose to leave it out along with regulatory guidance for video gambling machines. For now, the state’s only casinos will be the three tribal casinos.
While no counties were specifically named as locations for new casinos, lawmakers had discussed options in Anson, Nash, and Rockingham counties, all of which are considered rural tourism districts.
Wrangling abounded in weeks leading up to budget vote
In situations like the one in North Carolina, gambling expansion plays a role in budget talks because lawmakers will include tax revenue from the expansion in a state’s spending plan.
Adding more casinos, for example, may be more palatable to lawmakers if their revenue can fund various programs in the state or help make up for a deficit.
In North Carolina, however, the timing of gambling expansion didn’t work. Republican lawmakers made a push for four new casinos and regulation of video gambling machines.
However, disagreement within their ranks left legislators scrambling to find the necessary votes, and Democrats opposed the proposal for new casinos.
There was talk of making gambling expansion a bill separate from the budget. According to AP News, some lawmakers went as far as to tie gambling expansion to Medicaid expansion, such that the latter wouldn’t pass if the former didn’t.
Conservatives and Democrats celebrate gambling expansion failure
With expanded gaming out of the picture in North Carolina for now, people from both sides of the aisle are celebrating.
Sen. Jay Chaudhuri was a vocal opponent of Republicans’ plans to link gambling to Medicaid expansion. In the days leading up to the budget decision, he noted on his Facebook page that the Republicans’ casino initiative was mired in pay-to-play tactics and that it was a “political stunt.”
After the budget passed without casino expansion, Chaudhuri hailed it as a win for Democrats.
“For the last few days, House and Senate Dems have stood united against casinos and for Medicaid expansion,” he tweeted. “Today, we showed the state why Dems still matter.”
Conservative think-tank, the NC Family Policy Council published a statement in support of the decision to cut casinos and video gaming from the budget:
“The NC Family Policy Council is extremely grateful that North Carolina’s legislative leaders have abandoned efforts to impose harmful commercial gambling casinos and video lottery machines on the citizens of our state.”
Commercial casinos in North Carolina could help the state’s economy
While the pushback against four commercial casinos in North Carolina was enthusiastic for various reasons, there is ample evidence to suggest that North Carolina missed out on an opportunity to help its local economies.
In a 2022 brief from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, economist Adam Scavette noted that casinos can provide a boost to the economies of less-dense areas without nearby competition. This scenario would likely be the case if four commercial casinos were built in North Carolina.
The state’s three tribal casinos hug the border in the western part of the state, so any new casinos would likely spring up in areas where there is no competition. That lack of competition would help boost local economies, which is a key point in the discussion since market saturation often tempers the revenue benefits new casinos bring.
This is an important point, as the three counties in consideration as possible locations for new casinos are all rural (less dense) areas.