Charitable Gambling Bill Vetoed by North Carolina Governor on Video Poker Concerns

Posted on: July 13, 2017, 09:00h. 

Last updated on: July 13, 2017, 08:40h.

A bill to authorize charitable gambling that is taking place at nonprofits throughout North Carolina has been rejected by Governor Roy Cooper (D).

charitable gambling North Carolina Roy Cooper
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper is pushing back on a charitable gambling bill that had the support of the state legislature. (Image: Chris Seward/Associated Press)

House Bill 511 sought to allow charities and nonprofits holding a liquor license to host “game nights” four times a year. Permissible casino games included roulette, blackjack, poker, craps, simulated horse racing, and “merchandise wheel of fortune.”

But the seventh category caused alarm when the legislation reached the governor’s desk. HB 511 also called to allow “any other game specified in the permit application and approved by Alcohol Law Enforcement.”

Nonprofits are presently allowed to operate bingo nights, but many charities have added other games in recent decades, operating in a quasi-legal manner. The legislature wanted to make the additional games fully legal, but Cooper said HB 511’s open-ended language might allow nonprofits to add video poker machines.

North Carolina is one of the most conservative states when it comes to gambling, and for decades voters and lawmakers in the Tar Heel State have worked to combat expansion.

The Democratic governor who took office in January said in his veto, “I am not opposed to legitimate nonprofits holding an occasional ‘game night’ to help with donations to worthy causes. However, I believe this legislation as written could cause unintended consequences.”

HB 511 would have blocked charitable gambling nights west of Interstate 26, which corners off the southwestern part of the state. That’s where North Carolina’s two tribal casinos, Harrah’s Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River, sit in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Defending Tradition

The first state in the Bible Belt for those traveling south down Interstate 95, North Carolina has long championed conservative values.

Tar Heel residents have voted for a Democratic presidential candidate just twice since 1968, somewhat surprising considering 23 of the state’s last 26 governors have been blue.

According to Gallup’s most recent index of the most religious states, North Carolina places ninth with 49 percent of adults saying they’re “very religious.” When it comes to gambling, the state is the 40th most addicted state, according to a study conducted by

Cooper wants to keep it that way.

“Legitimizing charitable gambling in this way could give video poker a new way to infiltrate our communities. Allowing the industry to masquerade as a charity could cause unintended permits to be issued, and without tough criminal penalties enforcement would be difficult,” the governor concluded.

Easing restrictions on charitable gambling doesn’t provide much money for state coffers. The North Carolina bill would have required nonprofits to pay just $200 annually for a casino night permit.

No Charity Here

Cooper isn’t the only governor to recently deal a blow to nonprofit gaming.

Last fall, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) vetoed a charitable gambling bill on claims that the legislation “would allow charitable raffles to veer into the realm of commercialized activity.” However, he did say he recognizes the need to modernize nonprofit gaming laws, and called on the legislature to develop a new bill.

Cuomo’s veto was seen as a way of protecting the state’s recently expanded commercial gambling landscape. Two casino resorts opened this year in Upstate New York.