Lawmakers mull North Carolina commercial casino legislation

North Carolina statehouse
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After securing sports betting legalization in 2023, further gambling expansion is in lawmakers’ minds in North Carolina.

As WRAL News reported, a potential bill is floating around Raleigh that proposes a $1.5 billion development across the state allowing one operator the rights to build three sites. The local outlet obtained a copy of the draft bill, which hasn’t been published publicly or introduced at the capitol.

In detail, the proposals note that relevant criteria for locations of the three casinos include being a place east of Interstate 77, having a population of fewer than 100,000 people, and being one of the more economically deprived areas in the state. 

The bill would see just one operator allowed in the state, alongside a potential fourth casino that would be run by the Lumbee Tribe. The prospective operator would have to be an experienced company in the industry, defined as being active in casinos for at least 10 years, as well as be committed to investing $500m in each of the three sites. 

Lawmakers have indicated that, should these proposals ever come to fruition, over 5,000 jobs would be created and the state budget would be boosted by a 22.5% tax on GGR. 

North Carolina is currently home to three tribal casinos. Two are run by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and operated by Caesars Entertainment, Harrah’s Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River. The third is Catawba Two Kings Casino, run by the Catawba Nation.

Senate leader Phil Berger told WRAL that the idea to develop casinos is part of a wider strategy of stimulating an economy centered around entertainment and leisure in underdeveloped and deprived areas. 

“It wouldn’t be just a standalone casino,” he said. “The idea would be that there would be a district that would include a casino, a hotel, possibly residential, commercial, office-industrial and it would be sort of a package that would be developed. That’s at least the concept.”

The North Carolina legislative session ends on Aug. 31, so there are only a few weeks left to get something done in 2023.

It has been a busy year for North Carolina lawmakers on the gaming front, as sports betting passed through in June. 

The bill stipulates that after the proposed launch date in January 2024, 10-12 online sportsbook operators will enter the state, each of which will pay a $1 million licensing fee for a five-year license. The online licenses will be issued independently of the retail venues. Sports betting will be taxed at 18% with no deductions for promotional credit.