North Carolina lawmakers say video gambling machine legislation could resurface this year

February 15, 2024 6:37 PM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Associated Press
February 15, 2024 6:37 PM

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Interest in authorizing more casinos in North Carolina during this year’s upcoming legislative session appears tamped down based on comments from top General Assembly leaders. But this week they suggested an effort to sanction and regulate video gambling machines could resurface in the spring.

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A package considered by lawmakers last year would have permitted construction of four more casinos across the state and the licensing of gambling machines through the state lottery commission. But the proposal faltered in September as both House conservatives and Democrats balked at an idea by Senate Republicans to insert the gambling language into the two-year budget with little public review.

Senate leader Phil Berger, a strong supporter of creating casinos that would bring jobs and revenues to rural areas, told reporters Wednesday that he has no plans to pursue casino legislation in the work session that begins in late April. He said he also hasn’t had a conversation with any member that “leads me to believe that somebody is going to champion moving forward” with the idea.

House Speaker Tim Moore said separately on Wednesday that there’s been more discussion about reviving legislation this year for video lottery terminals, which was the preferred element of the 2023 gambling package for many of his colleagues.

The 2023 bill “just kind of went totally off the rails,” said Moore.

Moore said more people may feel inclined to authorize video machines, which he likened to the modernization of scratch-off lottery games. A fiscal analysis by General Assembly staff on the video machine portion of the 2023 gambling package predicted it could generate over $400 million annually for the state by mid-2028.

Berger said while he was aware of discussion among lawmakers about the video machines, there may not be enough time to work through legislation during the session. Sessions in even-numbered years historically often last only two or three months.

“Some of that may need a little more runway than what we’ll have for the short session,” he said.

Any revival of gambling legislation is sure to bring out opposition again from a coalition of Christian conservatives and liberal lawmakers that warn against gambling addiction that additional games would cause families and children.

The state currently has three casinos, operated by two American Indian tribes.

And more gambling options are emerging. The state lottery expanded its offering of online games, or digital instants, in November. And legalized sports betting will begin March 11, the result of separate legislation approved and signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper earlier in 2023.