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House approves changes to gaming compact

Posted June 5, 2012

— Changes to North Carolina's gambling laws to permit live table games on Cherokee lands may now be just one vote away from Gov. Bev Perdue's desk.

The House has approved Senate Bill 582, a measure that would update the compact between the state and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, allowing Vegas-style table games in Western North Carolina. 

Live-dealer gaming is currently prohibited by state law. The new compact would lift that restriction for the Cherokee nation. In return, the state would get a cut of the new table games for the next 30 years - a deal projected to be worth $60 to $90 million over that period. 

The compact also would allow the tribe to build two more casinos on its western North Carolina lands. One would be in Murphy. But tribal leaders say those satellite operations are still in the planning phases.

Bill supporters say the compact would create 400 high-paying jobs in counties with double-digit unemployment.  Tribal leaders say it could also boost the area's economy by attracting more tourism. 

"It gives us a further opportunity to reach out and broaden our market, and really to create this destination resort that we've been working on for a number of years," said Eastern Band Principal Chief Michell Hicks. 

Currently, Hicks says, the casino in Cherokee offers live "dealers" and chips, but the cards are replaced by a video screen. The new compact would allow true table gaming. 

"When folks come to Cherokee, there’s various parts of the clientele that – that’s what they look for. They want that engagement with the live dealer," Hicks said. "It enhances the entertainment." 

The vote was 68-49 — about the same margin as when the House gave tentative approval last week. But the vote didn't follow party lines. In fact, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans became unlikely allies against the bill. 

Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Haywood, called the proposal "socially corrosive."

"I put it in the context of what’s going on with our video gambling, as well as the sweepstakes machines that are spreading across the state," Rapp said. "It’s part of a big picture."

"We’re moving NC into becoming the state of gambling," said Rapp. "This is just one small piece in this broader expansion."  

"I'm ashamed. I'm very ashamed," said Rep. Mark Hilton, R-Catawba. "Is this what you call 'good'?"

The bill now returns to the Senate, which is expected to back the House's changes. If it does, the bill's next stop is the desk of Governor Bev Perdue, who negotiated the contract and is expected to sign it. 

12 Comments

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  • starvingdog Jun 6, 3:55 p.m.

    Not just in Lumberton! Put one at the Gold Rock exit near Rocky Mount! 12,000 unemployed folks within 30 miles could fill a few casino jobs.

  • readme Jun 6, 9:23 a.m.

    It should be legal everywhere. It can be regulated closely like it is in NV, but it should be legal. We are adults and should be trusted to make our own decision about whether or not we want to gamble.

  • chfdcpt Jun 6, 9:02 a.m.

    @Tired2, the point is that some folks have been asking how the State has the authority to tell the Cherokee "Nation" if they can have gambling or not. So I looked up the laws that give the authority to the State.

  • dev8me Jun 5, 7:40 p.m.

    Another cash cow coming into life........

  • tired2 Jun 5, 7:17 p.m.

    Need to rid this state of those who feel others shouldn't be entitled to their views.

  • tired2 Jun 5, 7:16 p.m.

    chfdcpt...and your point...laws are meant to be changed..see the last amendment change the "majority" of 15% of NC eligible voters passed.

  • chfdcpt Jun 5, 6:25 p.m.

    Federal law permits such gaming on Indian lands as long as it is not against the laws or the public policy of the state in which it is conducted.4

    North Carolina statutes currently prohibit Class III gaming, including gaming machines, live table games, raffles and video games.5

    The North Carolina Constitution specifically prohibits both exclusive and hereditary emoluments, with the exception of exclusive emoluments awarded in connection with public service.6

    4 25 U.S.C. § 2701.
    5 N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-306.
    6 N.C. Const. art. I § 32, 33

  • 37 Jun 5, 5:01 p.m.

    I agree about having a casino in Lumberton. It would be the only one on I-95 between Philadelphia and south Florida, plus it would be convenient to most of the state's population.

    One extra casino in Cherokee will be needed once they have table games. Even with the enlarged casino space, they will not be able to handle the business a few days a week.

  • sunshine1040 Jun 5, 4:49 p.m.

    And build another one in lumberton just far enought that I will not be going daily but still have access.
    give the money to education for the next 30 years and dig us out of the debt the democrats have been putting us in for last decade

  • ncouterbanks69 Jun 5, 4:48 p.m.

    How the cherokee allow nc to dictate what the tribal government does is beyond comprehension.

    I wonder the same thing. How they were not allowed to do this in the first place is beyond me.

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