Republicans in the North Carolina legislature have drafted a bill that would allow the state to develop three casinos in Rockingham, Anson, and Nash counties. The bill would reportedly allow the first casino legalization outside the Native American lands that are the currently the only areas facilitating legal casino developments.
Reason for Move:
As reported by the Triad Business Journal (TBJ), the move seems driven by the Triad’s poverty rates that are above the state average. The source reverts to the respective 2020 census data to indicate that the three counties have less than 100,000 residents. Also, Rockingham and Anson are reportedly designated by the NC Department of Health and Human Services as rural areas while Nash is the sole urban county of the Triad.
Rezoning Request Following the Move:
Therefore the Republican representatives reportedly consider the respective casino developments a chance to promote tourism and bring more traffic to the seemingly passive region. At the same time, the company NC Development Holdings reportedly submitted a request to change the purpose of 192 acres of land in the Rockingham County into the status that would allow a wide range of commercial uses.
NC Development representatives has reportedly remained sustained about the plans for the land but the company’s connection with the Cordish Casino Division triggered rumors that a casino will be built in the area. As reported by TBJ, the Planning Board rejected the company’s rezoning request for the land but the the issue will be finally decided by the Rockingham County Commission on August 21.
The proponents of the bill consider that casino developments would reportedly inject around $ 6 million in the local economy and generate more than 1700 jobs. Phil Berger, a Republican representing Rockingham County, reportedly told the source: “Rural Tourism Districts are an economic shot in the arm for our Tier 1 counties. These districts, which go beyond gaming and include event spaces, restaurants, hotels and other attractions, will create thousands of jobs and open up several new streams of revenue for rural parts of the state. ”
Senate President Pro Tempore Berger reportedly added: ”Discussions are ongoing and I remain hopeful that Rural Tourism Districts will be a part of the final budget.”
Impact of Donations:
The proponent legislators argue that the lack of the respective bill reportedly makes North Carolina loosing around $259 million of annual gross gaming revenue to Virginia. At the same time, the Triad Business Journal reports that eight lawmakers involved in the bill draft have received $34,400 in donations from The Cordish Companies, with Sen. Berger having reportedly received $5,600 from the same company in November 2022. As reported, these donations are legal but still worrying critics about the possible impact on the legislators.
Christopher Cooper, professor of political science and public affairs at Western Carolina University, reportedly commented:“It’s hard to show true pay-to-play because organizations that donate money give it to the people who are likely to support them. I think the campaign contributions are strategic investments in getting access to and helping to set the agenda for legislators.”
Some Rockingham residents are reportedly excited to have the casino bringing in more money to the county, but others are opposed to the idea as the casino may affect the operations of the Camp Carefree facility used by children with chronic illnesses and disabilities. The opponents claim that the presence of a casino in the vicinity of the camp may make parents reluctant to send the children to the camp. Also, around 3% of the county’s population has signed a petition to have the rezoning request rejected as of August 2, awaiting the final authorities’ decision expected on August 21.