Gambling expansion in North Carolina

Published August 16, 2013

By Brad Crone

by Brad Crone, Campaign Connections and NC SPIN panelist, August 16, 2013.

News broke this week that the South Carolina Catawba Indian Tribe is seriously considering the purchase of a 45-acre tract of land in Cleveland County to establish a casino attraction just off Interstate 85 at the border.

It appears the Governor and his economic development team is pursuing the project and there’s a darn good reason.  Money.

However, the fact that a South Carolina tribe is pushing the casino project will create huge political ripples in the state.

Another major problem is the appearance that the state doesn’t have a comprehensive policy when it comes to dealing with gaming regulations in the state.

The Catawba Nation project makes the state look more project oriented that policy driven.  A similar problem exhibited by the Perdue Administration.  You have to understand that there are multiple levels of politics at play.

  1. The project is singular in scope. A unified policy on Indian Gaming would be beneficial for our state’s native American population and the state’s general fund
  2. It’s highly unlikely the Cherokee Nation will ever go for the project being so close to their existing casino in Cherokee – and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee are major players in state politics, thanks to the leadership of Principal Chief Michelle Hicks.
  3. The conservative Republicans in the State Legislature don’t like expanding gaming regulations in the state.

Here’s a solution:  The state should consider a joint compact gaming policy that allows the recognized tribes in the State of North Carolina to own and operate casinos on I-85; I-77 and I-95.  The proceeds would be divided based on populations of the tribes with the state getting one-third of the revenues.  The Eastern Band of the Cherokee could be the managing partners since they already have an established and successful casino operation.

You could have major casino attractions in Roanoke Rapids, Lumberton, Henderson and even in Surry County.

The joint state tribal compact would allow smaller state recognized tribes to lift up their people.  It would be a boost to the Lumbee, Tuscaroran, Coharie, Croatan, Powhatan and Saponi tribes.

It would be a windfall for the State of North Carolina generate $300 to $500 million a year that could be invested in the state’s general fund – perhaps helping to fund education, our universities or upgrading our interstate highways.

As far as the social conservative Republican lawmakers, I haven’t figured out a solution for that yet….standby.