A simple rezoning request from a North Carolina holding company is raising eyebrows that a potential North Carolina casino could be coming to Rockingham County.
NC Development Holdings, which has the same registered address as Baltimore-based casino developer The Cordish Cos., submitted the request but has yet to provide additional details.
Retail casinos are not legal in North Carolina — yet. The state legalized online sports betting this year and is preparing to launch early next year.
Could a North Carolina casino be on the horizon?
Speaking before the Rockingham County Planning Board last week, the company’s lawyer said since this is a “straight rezoning” request, under state law, the applicant doesn’t have to say what it hopes to build.
NC Holdings aims to rezone roughly 192 acres of land in Rockingham County for commercial use. The paperwork filed lists the head of Cordish’s casino division as the primary contact.
Currently, there are three casinos in North Carolina — two in western North Carolina owned and operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and another run by the Catawba Tribe 35 miles north of Charlotte. However, as gambling expansion talks in the General Assembly intensify, residents are already speaking out.
Even though everything is speculative, residents fear that a casino could be in the works.
Speaking before the planning board, resident B.J. Rierson said:
“I think it’s supposed to hush-hush what they’re putting in there. We don’t want [a casino].”
Gambling expansion talk worries residents
Recently, Greater Carolina, a nonprofit political education organization, was commissioned to study the effects of additional casinos. The study found that if lawmakers authorize three more casinos, the industry could generate $1.6 billion in new revenue.
In a statement issued through spokeswoman Lauren Horsch, Sen. Phil Berger said:
“Expanding gaming in North Carolina remains a conversation in the General Assembly, but what that expansion looks like has not been determined. [I am] supportive of efforts to expand gaming, but it is still too early in the discussions to comment on any specifics.”
Speaking with WRAL, Rhonda Rodenbough, a managing board member of Camp Carefree, which sits adjacent to the land, said:
“Phil Berger is pushing to get gambling legalized in North Carolina, and that’s where they want to put the casino and all the amenities that go with it.”
“Camp Carefree has always been a traditional summer camp with the canoeing and the horses,” Rodenbough said.
“This property is right up against our property line. And if they come in and they level all the trees — that is going to take away from the atmosphere of privacy and being out in the open.”