The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina receives a much sought-after casino license under the proposed measure. The reason this disparity matters so much is that, although the tribe has state recognition, they do not have federal recognition. As a result, they are not allowed to set up gaming operations under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). This license distribution is a reflection of the community’s efforts to support economic growth and recognize the legacy of the Lumbee Tribe.
As part of the bill, licenses are specifically designated for rural counties on the state border and along major transportation corridors. The measure makes no reference of specific locations, but previous conversations pointed to Anson, Rockingham, and Nash counties as possible sites for these casinos. The revised draft does not include any potential casino locations since local communities have opposed these recommendations.
The draft legislation comes after Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger’s unsuccessful attempt to incorporate casino expansion in the state budget. The $30 billion spending plan for North Carolina was supposed to be approved in July, but it was delayed because of the controversy over the casino problem. Berger’s previous bill is largely similar to the new one, albeit there is one key distinction. The current version of the bill aims to diversify developers while keeping the prospect of a single organization managing all three casinos. The previous version intended to allow a single business to handle all three nontribal casinos.
License Allocation and Site Selection: Debate Surrounds Rural Casino Locations
The bill’s main goal is to encourage and promote tourism in rural counties. Gaming, according to its supporters, is a new and expanding component of the tourism industry. They argue that North Carolina is losing out on significant economic and job prospects as nearby states legalize gaming. Before submitting their proposals for approval to the state’s Secretary of Administration, prospective operators would require the support of local officials and individuals from the communities they hope to host in order to obtain a license under the proposed legislation.
North Carolina has traditionally held conservative stances towards gambling. It was the last state on the Eastern Seaboard to create a lottery, and following the enactment of IGRA. North Carolina was first hesitant to support tribal casinos, however, Cooper signed legislation which permitted sports wagering at tribal casinos in 2019. The state’s position on gambling has, nevertheless, been changing. 2021 saw the approval of in-person sports betting at western North Carolina casinos through tribe talks. Governor Roy Cooper approved pari-mutuel horse betting in June 2023 and sports betting on mobile devices and land. But it won’t be until early 2024 that these new gambling options officially open.
Political Challenges and Casino Bill Evolution: From Budget Controversy to Diverse Development
While some people are excited about the possibility of expanding casinos, others, such as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Catawba Nation in South Carolina, oppose it. Religious and conservative organizations have also voiced concerns. Notably, the political environment is expected to become even more complex since a second bipartisan plan that combines the Medicaid expansion issue with the casino expansion issue is set for discussion.
Governor Cooper blasted the legislative attempt in a recent statement, referring to it as “the most brutally dishonest legislative scheme” he has seen in his lengthy political career. He voiced misgivings about the goals of the measure and emphasized the importance of openness and moral leadership.