North Carolina’s House Speaker has indicated that a massive gaming expansion proposal does not have enough support among the party that controls the state legislature to be included in the state’s forthcoming budget bill.
Republican House Speaker Tim Moore informed members of his caucus last week that sufficient support was not there among Republican members to pass a budget bill that includes gaming expansion.
“To be clear, we will not pass a budget that does not have 61 Republican votes,” Moore wrote in an email to members that was obtained by Raleigh television station WNCN. “As you can see, there are not 61 Republicans willing to vote for the budget if it includes gaming."
Moore also told members to look out for a caucus meeting about the budget “without gaming.”
Both chambers of the state’s legislature are controlled by a Republican supermajority, giving Republicans the ability to effectively create their own budget without fear of a veto from Democratic Governor Roy Cooper.
Cooper’s executive budget proposal, released earlier this year, included legalizing mobile sports betting and provisions to regulate video lottery terminals (VLTs) in licensed bars and restaurants.
State lawmakers, including Republican Senate President Phil Berger, are separately exploring a potential legalization of up to four commercial casino-resorts in different regions of North Carolina.
The state just legalized online sports betting in June, with the first bets set to be accepted between January 2024 and June 2024.
In addition, the North Carolina Lottery Commission approved the sale of online instant lottery games in August, which are scheduled to launch by November.
Republican state Representative Jason Saine, who backed the mobile sports-betting bill, wrote in an editorial in the Charlotte Observer last Tuesday (September 5) that online casino should be on the table along with VLTs and land-based casinos as part of the expanded gambling conversations.
“My fellow lawmakers continue to debate what gaming expansion looks like, but limiting this discussion to just brick-and-mortar casinos is a lot like building new movie theaters without allowing people to stream movies on their mobile devices,” Saine wrote.
However, support for expanded gambling in general appears to be even thinner without the cover of the larger state budget plan to which it could be attached.
According to Raleigh television station WRAL, Berger told reporters that a standalone gaming bill is an unlikely route.
“I just don't see gaming going forward as a separate deal,” Berger said. “I think it's either in the budget, or we don't have a particular pathway as far as gaming.”
Specific details have been scarce about what gaming expansion would look like if it were to be enacted, with only a June draft bill being leaked that was, in itself, light on details.
The state has felt some pressure to expand gaming following a significant expansion in Virginia that included up to five new land-based casinos, many of which are in the southern part of the state near the North Carolina border, as well as mobile sports betting and iLottery.