North Carolina Casino Odds Lengthen Following Gubernatorial Primary

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North Carolina voters on Tuesday picked who will represent the Democrat and Republican tickets for the state’s 2024 gubernatorial in November.

Democratic North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein (left) and Republican North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson will square off in November to become the state’s next governor. Neither Stein nor Robinson are overly supportive of bringing commercial casinos to North Carolina. (Image: NBC News)

Along with choosing the next president, North Carolinians on Nov. 5 will decide who is their next governor. Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) second four-year term comes to an end in January. With North Carolina limiting a governor to two terms, state voters need to find a successor.

The two finalists for North Carolina’s top government job are the state’s Attorney General Josh Stein (D) and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R).

Stein has been endorsed by Cooper and easily won the Democratic nomination yesterday by fielding nearly 70% of the party vote. Robinson sailed to the GOP ticket with about 65% of the vote.

With the North Carolina gubernatorial set, political bettors and pollsters have the race neck and neck. The latest poll on the race conducted by East Carolina University has Stein and Robinson in a statistical tie.

Casino Odds Lengthen

While pollsters and bettors think Robinson and Stein have an equal shot at winning in November, their path to the gubernatorial ballot is thought to have lengthened the odds of commercial casinos coming to the Tar Heel State.

Republican lawmakers, primely Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), last year made an effort to authorize commercial casinos in three counties. Berger’s push to include casino legalization into Cooper’s budget bill was eventually met with pushback from both sides of the aisle on grounds that such a monumental expansion of gaming should be considered independent of the state’s critical spending blueprint.

Berger has pledged to continue his gaming campaign, but a Stein or Robinson governorship likely doesn’t help his odds of bringing Las Vegas-style resorts with slot machines and table games to North Carolina. Stein, the Democrat, was seemingly more opposed to casinos when pressed on the topic last month.

“We need to invest in infrastructure, a clean energy economy, good-paying jobs in every corner of the state, and make sure our rural counties have access to good health care and strong public schools,” Stein said. “Building a more durable economy for our rural communities is a better winning economic development strategy than casinos.”

Robinson also wasn’t willing to get behind a casino push, though he left the door open for such legislation.

“With any future gaming legislation, it needs to be evaluated based on its potential economic and social impacts, and the people will need to have their voices heard by their elected representatives — be it by municipal, county, or other local leaders or by legislators and other state officials,” Robinson said.

North Carolina is currently home to three tribal casinos — Harrah’s Cherokee, Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River, and a temporary casino at the planned future home of the Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort.

Sports Betting Coming

Casinos remain in question in North Carolina but commercial sports betting is imminent. Eight online sportsbooks are to commence operations at noon EST on March 11 ahead of the Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament.

Cooper signed the state’s sports betting bill into law last June. Tax revenue from sports betting will be used to fund collegiate athletics across the state. The books going live next week include bet365, BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings, ESPN Bet, Fanatics, FanDuel, and Underdog Sports.

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