Gambling Legislation

North Carolina lawmakers supporting casino expansion face questions

At least eight lawmakers received money from a company hoping to build a casino in the state

North Carolina lawmakers are considering casino legislation that would allow a single company to build three casinos throughout the state. However, campaign contributions from executives at Baltimore-based casino development company The Cordish Cos. to legislators have raised questions about “pay-to-play” scenarios in which parties fund certain business ventures.

“It could be the tip of the iceberg of the money that is falling into political campaigns and dark money operations that will be or have been funding General Assembly candidates and politicians,” said the former executive of Democracy NC, Bob Hall. But, “it’s not illegal.”

The campaign committees of no less than eight lawmakers received $34,400 from several donors associated with The Cordish Cos. from November of last year to March 2023, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission and the N.C. State Board of Elections. Critics and campaign finance analysts are questioning whether the contributions could give The Cordish Cos. an unfair edge in becoming the casinos’ developer.

However, it isn’t illegal to receive campaign donations from out-of-state corporations with economic interests in upcoming legislation, with candidates legally able to accept up to $6,400 in each election from donors.

According to WRAL, House Speaker Tim Moore stated the new casinos would be built in Anson, Nash, and Rockingham counties, although the sites aren’t publicly available. Senate leader Phil Berger, the state representative for Rockingham County, received $5,600 from Cordish Gaming Group CEO Joseph Weinberg in November.

NC Development Holdings has recently requested a rezoning of nearly 200 acres in the county, which is reportedly connected to The Cordish Cos. If approved, the newly-zoned area will be eligible to house various commercial properties.

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