A report obtained by WRAL Investigates examines the potential economic impact of expansive gambling in North Carolina.
At the request of the legislature, the North Carolina Education Lottery initially commissioned the report to study only sports gambling. The scope of the report quickly changed to include casinos, legal video poker, internet casino games, horse racing and internet lottery. North Carolina paid $425,000 for the revenue projection reports, as well as one report on problem gambling.
"It has been used in the past as an economic development tool," says Matt Roob. He and his team at Spectrum Gaming created the gaming report. WRAL Investigates obtained it through a public records request and found the projections were staggering. Within five years, $2.2 billion in revenue from casinos, $2.5 billion from statewide video poker, $367 million in sports betting, $300 million from internet casino games and $15 million on horses.
"You take a look at what behavior has been like in other states," explains Roob when telling how his team came up with the figures. Other factors include income levels and what kind of gaming is offered by surrounding states.
North Carolina is already home to two casinos run by the Cherokees in the western part of the state and a soon-to-be casino from the Catawba tribe. Spectrum said that North Carolina could also benefit from as many as nine state-run casinos.
"Where would be logical places to put these things? Kind of like you want to go where the money is, right?" says Roob when talking about places Spectrum suggested for casinos. The recommended locations include three casinos in the Charlotte area, two in the Triangle and one each in Pinehurst, Wilmington, Winston-Salem and Asheville. Spectrum estimates the cost to build the nine casinos with integrated hotels at $1.8 billion. By year four, state tax receipts from gambling alone would cover the cost. That doesn’t take into account other tax revenue generated through hotel stays, meals and income tax from the jobs created.
While the revenue numbers are eye-popping, Roob knows there will opposition to the state getting into the gaming business. He says his company just provides the information. The ultimate decision will sit with state leaders. understand that people don’t necessarily want this in their neighborhood, but that’s why there’s a legislative process," he said.
While it’s like a 2,000 to 1 underdog at the Kentucky Derby, Roob says the potential is at least worth considering. "You want to know: Is this an industry we want in our state? How do people feel about it and what sorts of revenue and employment can we get?"
Sources told WRAL Investigates lawmakers are working on a bill to get into the sports gambling business. It could be filed in the next couple of weeks. Right now, it doesn’t appear there’s much traction on other potential gambling revenue projects.