Rockingham Casino Lawsuit Dismissed by North Carolina Judge

Posted on: March 22, 2024, 01:04h. 

Last updated on: March 22, 2024, 01:15h.

A lawsuit in North Carolina challenging the Rockingham Board of County Commissioners’ August 2023 decision to rezone nearly 193 acres of land for a possible casino has been dismissed.

Rockingham casino North Carolina Cordish
An aerial view of almost 193 acres of land in North Carolina’s Rockingham County where a Maryland-headquartered casino company sought to build a gaming resort last year. A lawsuit challenging the Rockingham Board of County Commissioners’ decision to rezone the land for such a development has been dismissed in state court. (Image: Realtor)

Last fall, the owners of Camp Carefree, a free summer camp offered to children with disabilities and chronic illnesses, filed a lawsuit against the county commissioners on allegations that the local government ignored “basic legal requirements” in its consideration of a rezoning request for 192.7 acres of undeveloped land located west of US Route 220. Camp Carefree was joined by several Rockingham County residents as plaintiffs in the challenge.

North Carolina Superior Court Judge Clayton Somers dismissed the lawsuit this week on grounds that the case lacks “subject matter jurisdiction.”

“Having carefully considered the pleadings and memoranda of the parties, the documents, and materials submitted by the parties (including the case law and other materials cited therein) and after hearing and considering the arguments of counsel, the Court has found, concluded, and determined that Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss … should be granted for lack of subject matter jurisdiction,” Somers wrote. “All of Plaintiffs’ claims are dismissed with prejudice as to all Defendants, such that this entire action is dismissed with prejudice.”

Failed 2023 Casino Effort 

North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) last year pushed for the General Assembly to support his ambitions to bring Las Vegas-style commercial casinos to rural areas of the Tar Heel State. The powerful Republican proposed allowing casinos in the counties of Rockingham, Anson, and Nash.

Berger’s GOP colleagues initially seemed to get on board with the casino effort, but after reports surfaced that the Senate leader was working behind closed doors with Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, that support waned.

Cordish, the operator of Live!-branded casinos and entertainment districts, funneled at least $34K in donations to Berger and several other GOP lawmakers. Berger proposed allocating the three commercial casino development rights to Cordish. Before the Cordish disclosures, the Rockingham Board of County Supervisors received a rezoning application from an entity called NC Development Holdings to allow an undefined commercial enterprise to operate on the land that borders Camp Carefree.

NC Development Holdings is controlled by Cordish. The company had tentatively agreed to pay $5.5 million for the acreage. After Berger’s casino push was foiled, NC Development backed out of the land acquisition.

Groundless Rezoning Lawsuit

When Republican lawmakers in the House refused to get on board with Berger’s position that a gaming bill could be tacked on to the state’s 2023-25 budget bill and the casino deliberations were folded on for the 2023 legislative year, Rockingham residents turned their anger to the county government. The plaintiffs involved in the now-dismissed lawsuit said the commissioners engaged in illegal contract zoning, ignored surrounding land uses, and failed to take into consideration the community’s stance on gambling.

Maybe if these elected officials had made a trip to Camp Carefree this past summer and spent time with campers instead of traveling to a casino in Maryland, they would know just how important it is to preserve our community. We hope this rezoning lawsuit will shine a light on the need for transparency and accountability of all our elected officials,” the plaintiffs said in a statement.

Somers, however, concluded that the board committed no crime.