North Carolina casino expansion off the cards

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Any hopes of further gambling expansion in North Carolina appear to be off the table after lawmakers abandoned plans to attach casinos to the state budget. 

Previous failures in efforts to legalize casinos in the Tar Heel State led to a group of lawmakers attempting to hijack the state budget in a bid to authorize four new casinos and legalize video lottery terminals. 

However, those plans have now been shelved, after Republican leaders told reporters that it will not pursue the endeavor this time around. 

“We think this is the best, most prudent way for us to move forward,” Senate leader Phil Berger stated via the AP.

The move would have been a two-pronged attack from Republicans to gain a political win over Governor Roy Cooper. Cooper’s main aim from the budget was to approve Medicaid, but Republicans wanted to either use this to legalize casinos or to prevent Medicaid measures from passing. 

Earlier this summer, there were plans to legalize a $1.5bn investment across the state allowing one operator the rights to build three properties.

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

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.”

Yet, these plans reportedly will not come to fruition, at least not in the next fiscal year, as the budget is set to be approved without casino gambling measures. 

At this stage, it is also unclear whether the proposed changes to sports betting law will happen. Earlier this week, it was reported that a key change could happen to the sports betting law passed this year. 

Changes include there no longer being a limit of 12 operators that could enter the Tar Heel State, but those operators must enter a written agreement with the pro sports teams or the owners of facilities to obtain a state license. 

Giving more power to the sports teams, the proposal states that “the Commission shall only license interactive sports wagering operators who have a written designation agreement… to offer and accept sports wagers on sporting events”.