By Peyton Majors
Christian Action League
September 22, 2023
Churches and social conservative groups won a major political victory in North Carolina this week when Republican state leaders said they would not vote on casino expansion this year, either in the budget or in a stand-alone bill.
Opponents of casinos, though, said the fight against gaming is far from over. Nevertheless, they were celebrating Tuesday when House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, both Republicans, announced there would be no casino vote this year.
“It’s my belief that the emotion got the better of the discussion, and it was just time for us to get the other things taken care of,” said Berger, the chief supporter of casinos among GOP leaders in the legislature.
The now-abandoned plan would have added casinos in Anson, Nash and Rockingham Counties, with a fourth new casino operated by the Lumbee Tribe. Currently, the only casinos in North Carolina are owned by Native American tribes in the western part of the state.
Berger said lawmakers will consider taking up a casino bill in next year’s session. Opponents of casinos say they will be ready to speak out against it then, too.
Doug Isley of the group Citizens for Good Growth in Rockingham County, an opponent of casinos, said he is encouraging residents opposed to casinos to keep their yard signs up over the next few months.
Casinos, he said, are predatory. He hopes Berger changes his tune.
“This is not the type of work that I’ve seen him do in the past and I’ve been a big supporter of Sen. Berger. I’ve helped him on his campaign walking the downtown streets of Reidsville,” Isley told WXII, Channel 12. “I’m willing to see this thing through to the end even if it comes up to 2024 elections for Sen. Berger and we have to get somebody to primary him, I think that’s in the cards.”
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which opposes casinos, released a report in 2022 noting that the “most comprehensive study to date concludes that after three or four years, counties with casino gambling experience increases in rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, auto theft, and human trafficking compared to counties without casinos.”
Casinos also tear families apart, the report said.
“One study shows that those ‘with the lowest socioeconomic status in the poorest neighborhoods were at greatest risk for gambling problems,’ Researchers involved in this study speculate that “gambling may be viewed as one of the few opportunities for financial advancement, and perhaps provides the lure as a means for easily gaining money,” the report said. “… Gambling harms not only those directly involved in gambling but also harms the innocent, including members of the gambler’s family. Gambling creates financial problems and special tensions in the home. The children of gamblers suffer disproportionately when a gambling parent loses the money for such necessities as food, rent, clothing, and medicine.”
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said his organization will follow the words and votes of legislators on the issue closely.
“Although we have never been given to making political threats, I believe that I am completely in line with the sentiment of the hundreds of evangelical churches the Christian Action League represents, when I say, if the gambling goes through, we will not forget who voted for it,” Creech added. “As much as we would prefer to continue working with every Republican for a strong state, an expansion of gambling of this nature and size, cannot be overlooked and we cannot simply move on as though nothing has happened.”