North Carolina Casinos Now Unlikely, Nash County Landowner Feels “Tricked” by Developers

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The three proposed casinos in North Carolina that were to be added to the state budget ended up failing to pass muster in the state Senate last week. That must be disappointing for the many state politicians who supported the bill, including Republican House and Senate leaders Tim Moore and Phil Berger, and prospective developers, such as Cordish Companies.

However, in the bluster of $500 million potential projects, and community board meeting dramas, it’s often easy to forget that even the early stages of a casino development can have real human stories behind them.

Kent Dozier, a Nash County landowner, is one such story. The 80-year-old North Carolina-native (pictured) recently publicly expressed regret over signing an option on his 32 acres of land to a shell company associated with Cordish Companies.  

Dozier, who opposes gambling because of personal and religious beliefs, felt deceived by the lack of transparency in the deal.

The attorney who approached him, Tony Copeland, mentioned the land would cater to 80% white-collar jobs, but did not specify a potential casino. State records identify Copeland as a lobbyist involved with national casino operator Cordish.

“I’ve been living here 50 years. This is the house that my great-granddaddy built and my granddaddy raised his family here,” said Dozier, speaking to local media outlet The News & Observer.

Legislative Leaders and Their Casino Push

Berger and Moore, two of the state’s most influential legislative leaders, have been at the forefront of pushing for casino development. Their vision was to establish three Las Vegas-style casino resorts in North Carolina’s most disadvantaged counties, a move they believed would boost the state’s economy and help them compete with new casinos across state borders in Virginia.

The Rocky Mount Land that Dozier owns is right next to Interstate 95, which makes a perfect spot for a casino to encourage passers-by to spend time in the state and county.

Berger and Moore both argued that North Carolinians were already heading across state borders, to venues like the popular (and only temporary) Caesars Danville in Virginia.

However, their efforts have been met with resistance from residents and other lawmakers. The primary concerns revolve around the potential social implications of gambling and whether the state should promote such activities. Some residents even protested outside the North Carolina Capitol building in Raleigh last week over the issue.

It now looks like the proposals for all three counties (Nash, Rockingham, and Anson) have all been shelved for at least this year.

Neighborhood Deserves Better

“There are not 61 Republicans willing to vote for the budget if it includes gaming. Watch your inboxes for a caucus meeting next week about the budget without gaming,” Moore said last week in a letter to House Republicans.

One resident who probably won’t be upset is Dozier. Cordish now has a one-year option on the land purchase before it expires. But with the prospect of a casino now looking unlikely, they might just choose to let it run.

That would suit Dozier, who says he’d rather give up several million dollars than have his family’s land used for a casino.

“I’ve never bought a lottery ticket. I don’t gamble,” Dozier said. “I can’t see taking hard-earned money and throwing it out at a chance knowing that they’re designed to take your money. Our neighborhood deserves better than all this crap.”

Meanwhile, state leaders say local communities will be missing out on much-needed income, suggested to be potentially as high as $1.7 billion a year, from the three casinos. Any new plans will be waiting until at least mid-2024 for another shot.

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