North Carolina Casino Discussions Stymie State Budget, GOP Leaders Exchange Words

Posted on: September 13, 2023, 03:06h. 

Last updated on: September 13, 2023, 09:00h.

North Carolina casino talks came to a standstill last week with House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) saying he didn’t find the votes needed among his party to move forward with tacking on a gaming component to the roughly $30 billion budget bill that remains being discussed in the Raleigh capital.

North Carolina casinos gambling budget
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) is becoming increasingly frustrated with state lawmakers who continue to struggle to find a consensus on a budget plan. Efforts to include the authorization of commercial casinos into the measure have created additional gridlock in the Raleigh capital. (Image: North Carolina Department of Safety)

North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) hoped to legalize commercial casinos in Rockingham, Nash, and Anson counties following the state’s June authorization of sports betting.

Berger initially won Moore over by thinking that by allowing casinos in those counties, North Carolina would keep gaming money from flowing into neighboring states where casinos are opening, specifically across its northern border into Virginia.

State lawmakers remain in a special session hashing out their unfinished 2023-25 budget. Berger had suggested including a casino provision into the budget, but backlash from residents and local officials in the targeted counties caused some state lawmakers to rescind their support.

GOP Leaders Squabble

Moore said he wouldn’t move forward with the gaming bill in the budget unless 60 of the 72 House Republicans supported the casino push. The speaker said last week that after caucusing his colleagues, it became apparent that such backing wasn’t there.

Speaking with reporters this week, Berger says he’s been told at least 40 House Republicans are willing to sign the budget with gaming included. That means at least 20 House Democrats must back the spending plan with casinos.

The Senate leader says he has the votes needed in the upper chamber to move the budget with gaming to Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) desk. Berger accused Moore of “moving the goalpost” in determining whether to support casinos in the budget.

I believe that House leadership needs to live up to its commitments,” Berger declared. “The budget is a series of compromises.”

Even if Moore were to support the gaming effort in the budget and a House vote go in its favor, it’s no sure bet that Cooper would sign the fiscal package should it arrive on his desk with gaming.

“I’ve said before that this is an issue that should be decided outside of the budget,” Cooper said. “It shouldn’t be holding up a budget that can help move the state forward, that’s for sure.”

Budget Impasse

The North Carolina budget was due in June, but discrepancies among the Senate and House, and Republicans and Democrats, have prevented the spending blueprint from passing.

Berger and Moore had scheduled a vote on the budget for this week, but that was yanked after the gaming issue caused an additional divide. Berger conceded yesterday that he has no timeline for when the budget might pass — or even be voted on.

Cooper scolded the Republican leadership as a result.

“It’s outrageous that casinos alone are holding up the entire state budget. It’s holding up investments in our public schools, health care and mental health, law enforcement, state employees, and community colleges,” Cooper said. “It’s wrong. They [Republicans] put gambling ahead of live-saving health care for hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians.”