By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
November 22, 2023
Video sweepstakes outlets on every corner, gaming terminals in restaurants and bars, and Las Vegas-style casinos throughout the state — it’s the gambling industry’s dream for North Carolina, and one that could have already come true were it not for the efforts of the Christian Action League and other pro-family advocates standing up to protect the well-being of communities.
Already online sports betting is set to become legal in January, and legislative leaders who tried to slip casinos into the state budget bill this summer have promised that they will double-down on their push during the spring session.
“The recent legislative battle over the expansion of gambling in North Carolina revealed the immense influence of the gambling industry’s lobby. It’s clear that powerful forces are pushing for these changes, and they won’t back down easily,” says the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the CAL. “We’ve seen how casinos and gaming companies have poured resources into campaigns, donations, and lobbying efforts to push their agenda. This is a reminder of the need for vigilance in protecting our values and communities.”
A “Follow the Money” piece published Monday in The Carolina Journal revealed the outlandish amounts of cash being spent on lobbying efforts at the General Assembly and the fast-growing number of campaign donations coming from the gambling industry’s attempts to wield power and influence.
Spending on lobbying efforts set new records in 2021 and 2022, the publication reported, with $65 million spent on 745 registered lobbyists in 2022 including $1.25 million from 21 companies in the gaming industry.
A July report from the Carolina Public Press showed that at least eight Tar Heel lawmakers received campaign cash from donors with ties to The Cornish Companies, a Baltimore casino developer.
“It could be the tip of the iceberg of the money that is falling into political campaigns and dark money operations that will be or have been funding General Assembly candidates and politicians,” Bob Hall, the former executive director of Democracy NC told CPP, although he was careful to note that the donations are not illegal.
Nonetheless, the Rev. Creech called out lawmakers for their “backroom dealing and lack of transparency” surrounding the plan to put a provision for opening four casinos into the state budget bill. The idea, championed by Republican Sen. Phil Berger, was described as a rural incentive development program and would have involved a $1.5 billion state investment into three privately run casinos in Rockingham, Nash and Anson counties, with the possibility of the Lumbee Tribe opening a fourth in Robeson County.
When word of the plan came out, the CAL and other pro-family organizations pushed back, hosting rallies against the casinos. The Rev. Creech spoke at a rally in Nash County emphasizing the opposition to casinos by people of faith. The National Association of Evangelicals, he noted, considers government-run casinos and gambling as “socially, morally and economically destructive.” They are “rooted in covetousness and violate the biblical work ethic,” Creech said.
He reminded lawmakers that casinos are magnets for crime and social instability and that they promise economic prosperity but deliver mainly low-wage jobs and lead to a shift in spending so that legitimate businesses suffer.
“From the addictive nature of gaming activities to the devastating consequences it inflicts upon individuals and our collective social fabric, it is crucial we address the issue not in a shallow way, but in a manner that gets to the root of it,” Creech said. He commended those on both sides of the aisle who chose to push back against what he called the forces that would “either purposely or inadvertently undermine the moral fabric of our state.”
Finally, in September, legislative leaders announced that they would move ahead with the budget without the planned casinos and massive gambling expansion. But Creech says the battle will certainly resume at the next session.
“As we reflect on our success in preventing this major gambling expansion, we must also remain vigilant. During this Thanksgiving season we are thankful to God for this victory. However, the fight is far from over. The gambling industry will likely redouble its efforts in the spring, and we must be prepared to fight them again,” he says. “Our organization, the Christian Action League, remains committed to protecting the values and interests of North Carolinians. We will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that any proposed legislation aligns with the best interests of our state and its communities. Gambling is never in anyone’s best interest except the people who run the games.”
Between legislative sessions, the CAL is monitoring the issue and keeping North Carolina residents informed.
“Your support is crucial in our ongoing efforts to protect North Carolina communities. The battle against the gambling industry’s powerful lobby is just one example of the challenges we face,” Creech says. “To continue our work effectively, we rely on the generous contributions of individuals who share our commitment to preserving our state’s integrity. Your donations enable us to advocate tirelessly on your behalf and ensure that your voice is heard in the halls of power.”
“We urge you to consider giving generously to the Christian Action League, as together, we can make a meaningful difference in shaping the future of North Carolina with a strong Christian worldview.”
In these morally challenging times, your support can make a difference. Please consider making a donation to the Christian Action League today. Your contributions are vital in enabling us to continue our important work in the North Carolina General Assembly. Please click here to make a secure online donation.
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Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.
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Raleigh, NC 27615
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