Unregulated gambling is a massive industry that has long operated in the shadows in the United States. The billions of dollars generated outside of a legal framework have gotten the attention of state officials recently — leading the North Carolina state legislature to commission a report detailing the estimated revenue of gambling expansion in the state.
Needless to say, the results were staggering and could lead to extensive changes in North Carolina state law as it relates to legal gambling.
The report’s findings
What started off as a single report on the impact of sports gambling in the state, quickly morphed into a multi-faceted series of reports, detailing the impact of all types of gambling and what it could mean for North Carolina.
North Carolina Education Lottery commissioned the reports at the request of the state legislature, expanding the scope to include not only sports gambling but also casinos, legal video poker, internet casino games, horse racing, and internet lottery.
A team from an independent research firm called Spectrum Gambling compiled the reports, coming up with some intriguing numbers.
The reports found that within five years, the state could expect to see approximately $2.2 billion in revenue from casinos, $2.5 billion from statewide video poker, $367 million in sports betting, $300 million from internet casino games, and $15 million from betting on horseracing.
The casino revenue is based on a projection of establishing up to nine state-run casinos in North Carolina. The only real question left is whether or not state lawmakers will agree to a digital component — mobile gaming. Whether or not legislators like the idea, the Spectrum reports show a significant drop in revenue without the element of mobile gambling.
The benefits of gambling expansion
It’s no stretch to say that the increase in tax revenue generated from legal gambling in the state could make even the most prohibitionist lawmakers question their stances. Extra funds in the state coffers mean more available money for public investment.
Not only that, but the economic benefits are worth noting as well. NDD’s editor-in-chief Heidi Allen gives us a comment: “Expansion of the gambling industry in North Carolina can bring the state billions of dollars, many high paying jobs to locals, and also it will make gambling safer for players, who right now turn mostly to unregulated casinos.”
They show that the cost to the state of building nine casinos (and conjoined hotels) would come to around $1.8 billion. The proposed locations include three casinos in the Charlotte metropolitan area, two in the Triangle area, and one each in Pinehurst, Wilmington, Winston-Salem, and Asheville.
Although expensive at the outset, the reports show that the gambling revenue would pay for all of them within the first four years of operation, without even taking into consideration the associated tax revenue on tourism, hotel stays, meals, and income tax from job creation.
The other main benefit touted by lawmakers is the increase in revenue for public education. Historically, public education has largely been the argument used to legalize or expand states’ lottery programs and gambling and casino revenue would be no exception.
North Carolina has a bleak track record when it comes to education funding, with Charlotte ranking 7th worst city for education spending per student in the country. It stands to reason that any proponents of legalized gambling will use education funding as a “bargaining chip” in future discussions.
Legal gambling in North Carolina
As it stands, the only legal forms of gambling in North Carolina currently are the state lottery, charitable bingo and raffles, low-stakes “beach bingo”, and the two tribal casinos run by Cherokees in the western part of the state — although the Catawba tribe is in the process of building a new casino as well.
Next steps for North Carolina lawmakers
North Carolina has long been resistant to gambling expansion in the state, largely owing to its conservative population and Bible-belt culture. The traditional arguments against gambling legalization may soon be overlooked, however, with the enormous revenue possibilities proposed in the commissioned reports.
Without a doubt, any legislation surrounding gambling legalization in the state will have substantial opposition, regardless of the benefits outlined in the report or the will of the people. If proposed measures for legal casinos in North Carolina are approved, moving forward will still be a slow process.
There are countless logistics to be worked out, including the locations of the casinos, how the games would be run and managed, what types of betting should be offered, as well as many others. With many U.S. states legalizing various forms of gambling and bills being proposed in North Carolina in the near future, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a reality in the Tar Heel State too.