NC Senate leader drafts bill that could allow for casino to open in Cape Fear region

A piece of legislation proposed by one of the North Carolina’s top lawmakers could pave the way for more casinos to open across the state.
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 5:56 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - A piece of legislation proposed by one of the North Carolina’s top lawmakers sought to pave the way for more casinos to open across the state, including one in southeastern North Carolina.

The proposal and draft legislation, sent to Senate Democrats by Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger over the weekend, sought to create expanded gambling laws and new casinos, while requiring that the bill be passed for Medicaid expansion to take effect.

Medicaid expansion was passed into law in March with bipartisan support, but could only be implemented if the state’s portion to fund the expansion was included in the state budget.

The General Assembly has yet to pass a budget due to disagreements over the gambling proposal, and Berger’s draft would take both the gambling expansion and Medicaid expansion out of the budget so they can be passed in a separate bill.

Berger’s proposal would allow for the Lumbee Tribe to operate a casino in either Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Cumberland, Hoke, Richmond, Robeson, Scotland, or New Hanover County.

Democratic state leaders, including Representative Deb Butler, say passing this possible casino expansion should not be tied to implementing Medicaid expansion.

“If what they say is true, this is the single most despicable political maneuver I have ever seen,” said Butler. “This is absolutely disgraceful. They are gambling with the health care of North Carolina.”

Republican House Speaker Tim Moore said last week that he doesn’t see how Medicaid can be taken out of the budget.

“I do not see Medicaid being decoupled from the budget. One, you can’t do it and make the budget work because $1.6 billion in federal dollars is tied to the budget,” said Moore.

Governor Roy Cooper long advocated for Medicaid expansion to become law, but is opposed to the expansion of gambling and casinos proposed by Berger.

“The Republican supermajority is breaking their promise to expand Medicaid and instead are using it to extort a shade, sole source casino deal that many of their own members find suspicious,” Cooper said. “Democratic legislators are rightfully disgusted and strongly oppose the scheme. We must keep working this session to get the Medicaid expansion the people of North Carolina were promised.”

WECT reached out to Berger for comment Tuesday morning but has not received a response.

You can read the proposal the Senate Democratic Leader’s Office says it received from Berger’s office over the weekend below: