Thursday, June 20, 2024

‘Hard feelings’ on casinos could hinder further legalized gambling in NC, Speaker says

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) says “hard feelings” from last year’s casino debate may stand in the way of the legislature approving any additional legalized gambling options this year.

Moore’s comments came amid discussions about whether to approve video lottery terminals in places like bars and restaurants, as Republicans weigh changes to the state budget.

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“I do think that the conversation last year as it related to casinos has put a shadow over the discussion about updates to the lottery with VLTs and so forth,” Moore said.

Non-partisan estimates by staff in the legislature show that legalizing video lottery terminals could generate about $1 billion annually in revenue for the state.

During last year’s session, Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) pushed to include a plan to allow four more casinos in the state as part of the state budget. A group of House Republicans refused to go along with the plan amid backlash about the discussion occurring largely behind closed doors with no public input.

Sen. Berger said he’s not pushing to try again this year to pass the casino proposal. He said if the legislature is going to approve any additional gambling measures this year, a bill to do that should originate in the House so it would be clear whether there are enough legislators willing to vote for it.

Mobile sports betting began in North Carolina in March after lawmakers approved that last year.

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Berger said last week that top Republicans “are not making progress” in their talks on the state budget. The session began a month ago.

The legislature passed a two-year budget last fall. Lawmakers are debating what changes to make to it.

State economists recently revised down their estimates for the state surplus to $987 million from their previous expectation of about $1.4 billion.

“I think that’s caused a little bit of the more recent delay in the negotiations,” said Speaker Moore.

Sen. Berger blamed House Republicans for wanting to fund “pork” projects, saying they proposed spending about $1 billion out of reserves in addition to the surplus amount. House Republicans denied that was the case.

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Lawmakers are discussing funding additional grants to try to keep childcare centers open that are at risk of closure when federal pandemic money runs out this year. Republicans also have committed to funding requests for private K-12 school vouchers. The Senate already voted to spend another $248 million on that next year.

Public school teachers and state workers are also calling for better pay amid historically high vacancies and turnover. As the budget stands now, they’re receiving raises that are 7 percent on average over two years.

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