By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — Lawmakers in town for a two-day session last week left without giving their stamp of approval to an expanded gambling deal between the state’s Cherokee Indians and Gov. Beverly Perdue. But legislative leaders have said they expect the General Assembly will OK the deal, which would not only bring high stakes Las Vegas-style games to Harrah’s, but could arguably also put the state at risk for legalized gambling well beyond the Qualla Boundary borders.
“The amended compact that ties profits from the proposed new table games to education is the wrong move for North Carolina. It entangles state government with a predatory industry that will always dangle the carrot before lawmakers to further loosen state restrictions on gambling with the proposed prospect of more revenues for the state,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
According to the Governor’s office, the 30-year compact would earmark 4 percent of gross receipts from live table gaming for public schools for the first five years; 5 percent for the next five and so on up to 8 percent for the final decade. The money is supposed to go straight from the casino to school districts. In exchange, the state would grant the Eastern Band of Cherokees exclusive live table gaming rights west of Interstate 26.
“With respect to this compact and its connection to education, I refer back to a quote once made by Bill Friday, who was the president of the UNC system: ‘I just don’t think the state should set the example to its young people of saying we’ve got to resort to gambling to finance your education. I don’t think it is sound public policy for North Carolina to resort to gambling as a way to finance its public schools. I don’t think it is a good economic policy for the deprived citizen and I don’t think in the end it proves itself to be what’s it’s alleged to be,'” Dr. Creech said.
“Promises of gambling revenues for education or whatever supposed other good cause its hitched to in order to give it some respectability are rarely fulfilled,” he added. “Haven’t we learned anything from the failed government policy of a state-operated lottery?”
He called legalized gambling a “cancer on any culture that grows with time,” pointing to the fact that already the sweepstakes/video poker industry is pushing for a piece of the action.
“We would just like a seat at the table with our legislature to have our industry regulated and have it taxed,” Brian Henry, treasurer of the Internet Based Sweepstakes Organization told WRAL last week after the Cherokee compact was signed. Although lawmakers have passed legislation to ban the video games, many sweepstakes parlors continue to operate claiming that their software is now compliant with the law.
Further, some legal experts say if the state expands gambling for the Cherokees, it will leave itself vulnerable to legal challenges from other gaming interests beyond tribal lands.
“Everything about this new compact and the potential of the NCGA granting approval to it is wrong, wrong, wrong,” Dr. Creech said. The Christian Action League asked believers across the state to contact their lawmakers and urge them to oppose any attempt to expand gambling.
To contact your lawmakers in both the House and Senate on the Cherokee gambling issue click here.
In other Legislative news, the House and Senate passed H 796, which included a provision to allow large breweries to sell their own products on site. It came about as a way for the state to help lure two nationally known breweries, Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, to the Asheville area. Since it would not open up any new areas to alcohol sales and basically would just let breweries operate a convenience store in an area where beer is already sold, the Christian Action League did not fight the legislation.
“I felt that the bill was rather innocuous. It was a much better version than the second version of the bill that permitted for an additional 13 hours of alcohol sales weekly, circumvented local option alcohol referenda by putting alcohol outlets on certain properties of the UNC system, as well as allowing alcohol sales to start at 11 a.m. on Sundays,” Dr. Creech explained. “Our opposition to the second version of the bill was intense. But that language was later gutted and supplanted with a third measure that lawmakers felt would provide for jobs.”
He said the CAL considered the final version of the bill as a victory in many respects, since the most egregious provisions were removed. Rep. Tim Moffit (R-Asheville), sponsor of the original version of H 796 – Study Property Tax Valuation Process– that was used for a Committee Substitute by the Senate Rules Committee, also strongly opposed the second version of the bill. In fact, he had refused to have his name attached to such an “atrocious measure,” Creech added.
The Christian Action League monitors all bills that deal with expanded alcohol sales in addition to those addressing a host of other issues important to families across the state.