One North Carolina lawmaker poured cold water on any chance of online casino sneaking into the state budget.
“Not a chance in hell,” Sen. Jim Perry told PlayUSA.
North Carolina lawmakers, who legalized online sports betting and parimutuel wagering earlier this year, have said they are considering authorizing commercial casinos and video lottery terminals in the appropriations act currently in conference committee.
The North Carolina Education Lottery System also recently approved additional online lottery offerings without authorization from the legislature.
Perry says NC online casino not part of discussion
Perry, who is part of the conference committee, said North Carolina legislators have not discussed including online casino in the appropriations bill. And it’s not something he would support.
“I would vote ‘no’ and work hard to bring others with me,” Perry said of online casino.
Perry’s opposition to online casino is noteworthy. Over the past few years, he championed legalizing online sports betting in the Senate.
Perry explained that the position is based on his belief that online casino wouldn’t bring jobs or economic development to North Carolina.
“There are no jobs created in the state. There are no entertainment districts created. There is no development that provides a recurring ad valorem revenue stream.”
Legislative leaders also have concerns with online casino
Scott Ward, vice president of the Sports Betting Alliance, pitched the inclusion of online casino in any gaming expansion to WRAL. Many of the top internet gaming companies in the nation make up the Sports Betting Alliance, including FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Fanatics Sportsbook.
“It’s a natural fit and should be included in the conversation,” Ward told WRAL. “If you’re going to [do] more gaming legislation, it makes sense to include this. This is where the consumer is now.”
Significantly, WRAL statehouse reporter Brian Murphy got comments on online casino from Senate President Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore.
Both seem open to discussing the legalization of online casino. Berger said there would be a conversation to come on online casino. And Moore said digital gaming is the way of today, not just the way of the future.
But they need further convincing that it’s the right move for the state.
Berger told WRAL:
“One of the things that we have to be cognizant of, and I think we’ve thinking about this in terms of where in North Carolina potential casinos would be located, is the idea of some sort of market saturation and whether or not the more that you have on the phone that looks like a slot machine and acts like a slot machine, do you diminish the expectation that you have as far as the revenue is concerned from other things we’re considering.”
Berger agreed with Perry that commercial casinos bring jobs to the state, “whereas you’re not going to see that with something on people’s phones.”
Even though he supported legalizing online sports betting, Moore is not sold on consumer protections in online casino.
“I’ve got real concerns with the iGaming right now,” Moore told WRAL. “I really do. I need to hear more data to know 100% where I am. But everything I hear right now causes concerns.”
Commercial casinos also in doubt
Those concerns are typical for lawmakers when a state first discusses internet gaming. Online casino legalization never moves this fast. It takes time to win over statehouses.
Any small chance of legalizing online casino in North Carolina this year depends on lawmakers opting to do a gaming expansion package that includes commercial casinos and VLTs.
And there’s no guarantee that will happen. Catawba Nation, which operates one of North Carolina’s three tribal casinos, took to Raleigh last week to oppose commercial casinos. And commercial casino companies also have opposed how draft language sets up one company to build three casinos.
Perry did clarify to PlayUSA that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which has two tribal casinos in the state, has not been lobbying against the casino legislation.
Sources don’t believe that VLT authorization would move without casinos. Moore has said he expects North Carolina to finish the budget process in September.
If the gaming expansion doesn’t make the appropriations bill this year, that could give online casino time to gain support to become part of the overall package in future years.