North Carolinians now know where their elected leaders stand on legal gambling expansion. That’s because, on Sept. 19, the North Carolina General Assembly removed retail casino and video gaming terminal (VGT) proposals from the $30 billion budget bill. A final vote is expected on Sept. 21 or 22.
The previous version of the budget bill contained legal gambling expansion proposals for four new North Carolina retail casinos. (Three tribal gaming facilities exist.) Plus, it outlined the statewide legalization of video gaming terminals (VGTs).
For a brief time, there was a second budget bill that didn’t contain gambling measures and Medicaid expansion.
Meanwhile, the architect of one the most recent legal wagering additions – North Carolina online sports betting and esports – authored a newspaper opinion column suggesting the state legalize online casino and poker gambling.
On Sept. 5 in The Charlotte Observer, state Rep. Jason Saine wrote that he’d been encouraging his “colleagues to look toward the industry’s future: iGaming.”
The words from the Republican from Lincoln may carry more weight as lawmakers vote on Thursday or Friday on the budget that’s more than two months overdue. That’s because Saine, appointed by House Speaker Tim Moore in 2019, is a senior chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. That’s the committee that prepares the state budget.
Saine reasons in his opinion piece:
Industry experts project that full iGaming would yield nearly $300 million annually for the state – creating a new, reliable revenue stream that broadens the tax base and aligns with the smart fiscal policy the General Assembly has worked diligently to maintain.
What’s more, the state would realize iGaming’s tax revenue almost immediately, as opposed to waiting several years for brick-and-mortar casinos to open.
Esports and Sports Betting Join Lottery eInstants
In 2024, esports and sports betting are scheduled to launch. By Fiscal Year 2027, North Carolina’s sportsbooks are expected to generate $100.6 million in tax revenue. That’s with the 18% tax rate.
That’s in addition to the millions expected beginning on Nov. 15, when the North Carolina Education Lottery (NCEL) launches eInstant games via the online lottery. Bonus obtained lottery estimates showing eInstants are expected to bring in $75 million in gross gaming revenue (GGR) or $40 million net during the first 12 months.
However, there may be a snag for legal sports betting.
Today, WRAL reported that the budget bill that may reach a vote on Thursday or Friday changes the current sports betting bill.
Travis Fain and Brian Murphy wrote today:
The budget bill includes gambling language, not related to casinos or video lottery terminals but representing a major rewrite of the state’s new sports betting laws to give North Carolina sports teams more power. The language would overhaul gambling legislation signed into law in June, which hasn’t yet been put into practice.
Legal Gambling Expansion Out of Budget
The legal gambling expansion pulled out of the North Carolina budget bill today would’ve created revenue.
On Sept. 8, Matthew Kredell of PlayUSA reported:
A Spectrum Gaming market analysis released in March projected that three North Carolina destination resort casinos could generate $1.682 billion annually in gross gaming revenue. While VLT regulation limited to 30,000 machines could produce $1.89 billion annually.
PlayUSA and Bonus are Catena Media publications.
Online Casino Equals More Legal Gambling Expansion
Saine is known in online gambling circles for introducing HB347 on March 13. That esports and sports betting bill is now law.
However, when Bonus attempted to ask Saine if his iGaming OpEd meant he planned to introduce an online casino and poker gambling bill in 2024, he didn’t respond to repeated calls and emails.
Neither did Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, who supported the version of the budget bill that would have expanded legal gambling.
Berger, R-Rockingham, told WRAL on Sept. 13 that he was worried about money from North Carolina’s 11 million residents ending up in Virginia. That state allowed five retail casinos to be built, with the final one needing Richmond voters’ approval in November before it can be constructed.
Somebody can tell you that they’re gonna smack you upside the face. But until they do, you know, that’s when the realization really sets in.
Governor May Have Stopped Legal Gambling Expansion
When it called for legal gambling expansion, Gov. Roy Cooper made public his thoughts about the budget bill. On Sept. 16, he said he disliked Medicaid expansion’s inclusion in the proposed legislation.
Today on X, the governor reiterated his opposition to the previous version of the budget bill:
GOP demand for passage of their backroom casino deal in exchange for a state budget and Medicaid expansion is the most brutally dishonest legislative scheme I’ve seen in my 3+ decades. [emphasis in the original]
People are right to be suspicious.
Something has a grip on Republican leaders and it’s not the people of North Carolina.
Cooper has the power to veto a budget bill. He also held a press conference to sign sports betting into law.