The Senate gambling on the House to get casinos in NC
Republican leaders have confirmed a new strategy that is expected to get Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, the casinos he wants. That strategy includes a plan to expand Medicaid and legalize casinos in the same bill, as first reported by Dallas Woodhouse.
The Senate is expected to pass both the budget and the new Medicaid/casinos bill with ease. Now that casinos will not be included in the budget, the House is also expected to pass the state budget with at least a supermajority margin, meaning 72 or more “yes” votes. However, it is less clear how many will support the Medicaid/casinos bill.
Last week, House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, announced that he would not bring a budget that included casinos to the floor because his Republican colleagues did not have at least 61 votes on their own. In spite of this, the Senate continued pushing to make it happen.
Although there was some debate over whether the threshold had always been 61 House Republicans or whether it needed to be 31, Speaker Moore announced last week he was setting the mark at needing 61 “yes” votes for a budget bill that includes casinos from Republicans.
Over the weekend, the House’s lead budget writer, Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, said a vote on the casino and Medicaid expansion bill could come Wednesday.
The bill specifies one casino will be given to the Lumbee Tribe, along with three other casinos in three additional counties. The other three are expected to go in Rockingham, Nash, and Anson counties.
The casino bill puts several stipulations on the businesses chosen to build the casinos and develop in each district:
Create at least 1,750 jobs
Invest at least $500 million of their own money to develop each district
Need local government approval
Have 10 years of experience running casinos
Have 10 years of experience in developing and operating mixed-use, non-gaming real estate projects
On page 18 of the bill, there is a 22.5% tax on casino’s gross revenue. This is not a tax on profit, but on all revenue from the casino.
Not all Republicans are happy with the deal crafted by legislative leaders. When asked whether he would support a bill which includes Medicaid expansion and casinos, Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort, responded with a photo of a red button that reads “HELL NO.” Kidwell chairs the House Freedom Caucus.
Rep. Ben Moss, R-Moore, who is also a member of the House Freedom Caucus, did not say he was against the bill, but did emphasize the need for a budget.
“I feel the budget is the most important issue we should be facing at this point in time,” Moss said. “We need a budget.”
Video lottery terminals are still expected to be inserted into the Medicaid expansion/casinos bill. However, debate on the video lottery terminals is ongoing, according to sources.