North Carolina Thinking About Legal Casinos

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The sports betting legalization effort in North Carolina may also lead the state to add additional legal casinos. Representative Jason Saine (R-97) from Lincoln said that’s a realistic possibility.

Saine has been making the media rounds, speaking on radio and television about the conversations going on in the legislature about expanding the gambling legalization efforts beyond sports.

Speaking to WRAL on Friday, Saine said, “I keep hearing from [Senators] that they want to take up VLTs and potential sites in Eastern North Carolina for casinos.”

North Carolina law currently allows for tribal casinos, and the three that exist are in the western and southern parts of the state, away from the population in the Research Triangle of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. The vacation centers on the eastern coast of North Carolina are also hours away from the state’s casinos.

Feeling the Pinch from Virginia

North Carolina is no different from the number of states that have embraced the idea of legalized gambling because of what their neighbors are doing,

Caesars is opening a casino this summer in Danville, Virginia, less than four miles from the North Carolina border and less than 60 miles from Durham. The closest of the North Carolina tribal casinos is 175 miles away from Durham and near the South Carolina border.

Three other locations in Virginia have received approval for casinos, including Portsmouth and Norfolk, and those locations are less than a 30-minute drive to North Carolina.

The Financial Impact of North Carolina Casinos

The nonprofit political organization Greater Carolina commissioned Spectrum Gaming Group to study the expected impact of three casinos in the counties of Rockingham, Anson, and Nash. The reported numbers are very encouraging.

The bad news in the report is that North Carolina has lost more than $11 million in sports betting revenue to Virginia and Tennessee. The good news is that sports betting is coming to the Tar Heel state, and it’s expected to generate more than $500 million in gross revenue.

The numbers for casinos are even better, with the three proposed brick-and-mortar sites expected to generate $1.6 billion in gross revenue. At 20%, the most modest of the studied tax rates, that would mean $336 million in tax revenues for the state.

Time is of the essence. The report also says that casinos in Virginia are estimated to cause $259 million in gross gaming revenue to leave North Carolina for its neighbor to the north.

How Soon Could it Happen?

No current casino bills have been filed with the legislature yet, and the deadline is still a few weeks away. But by mid-May, lawmakers are expected to begin to work on the budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. The pro-casino crowd would benefit by having something in the record by then.

Traditionally, North Carolina has been slower to act on gambling than the rest of their neighbors. They were the last state on the East Coast to legalize the lottery. They are just now moving a statewide sports betting bill through the legislature. That has bipartisan support and is expected to pass the Senate this year.

As for the time line on adding casinos to the mix, Saine thinks now is the time. “I do think we’ll see something out of the Senate to that effect. I’ve been with those folks and we’ve talked about it. It may be the year for that as well.”

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