In response to earlier legislative discussions about the legalization of slot machines and table games in Raleigh, local governments and boards have been prompted to take a stand on the controversial issue of commercial casinos in North Carolina. Though no such state-approved gambling establishments are currently in the offing, support for the idea has been voiced from unexpected quarters.
Earlier this year, Senate President Pro Tempore of North Carolina, Phil Berger, had taken an initiative to incorporate a casino provision in the state’s 2023-25 budget bill. The provision aimed to permit a commercial casino in Rockingham, Anson, and Nash counties. However, Berger’s efforts were halted due to local officials–who reprimanded Berger and other top Republicans–feeling that casinos were being forced into communities that might not readily accept them.
Berger, with the backing of his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Speaker Tim Moore, is likely to introduce a separate gaming bill during the state’s 2024 legislative session. The intention is to sanction commercial casinos near the Virginia border, where casinos are opening. They also hope to permit them along significant interstates such as I-95, for the purpose of keeping gaming money within the state.
While legislative boards in the three initially targeted counties have either openly voiced objections or passed ordinances against Berger and Moore’s casino efforts, officials of another North Carolina county have expressed a willingness to entertain a gaming development if authorized through state legislation.
A local news online source, RRSpin, which covers Roanoke Rapids, Weldon, and Halifax County, recently reported that four boards focused on economic, tourism, and infrastructure development have approved resolutions supporting the consideration of a casino in the region. These boards include the Halifax County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Halifax County Economic Development Commission, Halifax County Business Horizons, and the Roanoke Rapids Sanitary District.
Halifax County, situated north of Rocky Mount in Nash County along I-95, is where Berger and Moore considered optimal for a casino. Additionally, this county is found along I-95, one of the busiest highways in the US that transects Halifax.
Despite this support from four area boards, the Halifax County Board of Commissioners is divided on the issue of whether a casino could bring economic benefits to the region. In a September vote, the board was split 3-3 on a proposed resolution backing Roanoke Rapids in its efforts to endorse a casino.
Those Commissioners against the resolution voiced worries about the potential increase in crime and addiction stemming from a casino, despite acknowledging the known economic gains it could bring. On the other hand, those in favor saw the casino as an ideal economic opportunity for both the city of Roanoke Rapids and the county. Concerns, however, do persist around local residents who may not have the means to financially bear the brunt of losses at the slots or table games.