North Carolina Casino Push Not Endorsed by Gubernatorial Favorites

Posted on: February 16, 2024, 10:13h. 

Last updated on: February 16, 2024, 11:07h.

North Carolina will elect a new governor in November. The leading gubernatorial contenders aren’t exactly supportive of recent legislative efforts to bring commercial casinos or video gaming machines to the state.

North Carolina casino gaming governor race
North Carolina Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (left) and Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein are neck-and-neck in the polls to succeed Gov. Roy Cooper (D). North Carolina’s gubernatorial front-runners aren’t overly in favor of more legal gaming. (Image: AP)

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) is term-limited and will exit the Executive Mansion in January 2025. Democrat Josh Stein, the state’s current attorney general, and Republican Mark Robinson, the state’s current lieutenant governor, are the front-runners to succeed Cooper.

During recent interviews with The News & Observer, both candidates didn’t lend much support to undertakings to bring Las Vegas-style casino resorts to the Tar Heel State. They also didn’t express much enthusiasm for video lottery terminals, slot-like machines that could operate in licensed lottery retail locations.

North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) last year tried to include a casino provision in the state’s 2023-25 budget bill. The statute would have allowed nontribal casinos in the counties of Anson, Nash, and Rockingham.

Democrats and many Republicans balked at the idea of including such a major industry expansion in a budget plan. Berger’s gaming supplement was ultimately removed.

Gaming Viewpoints

Stein, who has the endorsement of Cooper, and Robinson, who has the support of former North Carolina Gov. James Martin and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R), are the polling favorites for their respective primaries.

Stein has a 50-point polling lead on his nearest Democratic opponent. Robinson is up 40 points. The North Carolina primaries are scheduled for March 5.

While Stein and Robinson have differing opinions about several key issues, they seemingly agree that casinos and video lottery gaming might not be a solid bet for the future of North Carolina.

We need to invest in infrastructure, a clean energy economy, good-paying jobs in every corner of the state, and make sure our rural counties have access to good health care and strong public schools. Building a more durable economy for our rural communities is a better winning economic development strategy than casinos,” said Stein.

Robinson said whether casinos and other nontribal gaming comes to the state should be left to voters, not elected officials.

With any future gaming legislation, it needs to be evaluated based on its potential economic and social impacts, and the people will need to have their voices heard by their elected representatives — be it by municipal, county, or other local leaders or by legislators and other state officials,” Robinson said.

North Carolina is home to three casinos operated by two Native American tribes.

More Gaming on the Way

Regardless of whether North Carolina considers commercial casinos and/or video lottery machines, more commercial gaming is soon on the way. Last June, Cooper signed the state’s first expansion of commercial gaming since the lottery was authorized in 2005.

House Bill 347 approved retail sports betting at professional sports stadiums and venues. The law also allows for those qualifying sites to partner with online sportsbooks.

Online sportsbooks will begin taking bets at noon EST on Monday, March 11. On that date, eight sportsbook platforms will debut in North Carolina, including DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, ESPN Bet, Fanatics Sportsbook, bet365, and Underdog Sports.