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North Carolina’s Gambling Expansion Scrutinized for Campaign Contributions

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North Carolina's recent legalization of online sports betting has opened the door for further gambling expansion in the state.

Alongside proposals to introduce casino-style gambling options to boost tax revenue and create new jobs, concerns have arisen as a new report reveals that at least eight state lawmakers have received substantial campaign contributions from a Baltimore-based gambling firm.

According to a report by Carolina Public Press, between November 2022 and March 2023, a total of $34,400 was donated to North Carolina lawmakers by individuals connected to The Cordish Companies, a gambling operator based in Baltimore. The contributions were made during the period when discussions surrounding the expansion of gambling in the state were gaining momentum.

The donations have sparked controversy among gambling expansion critics and financial analysts who worry about their potential impact on the legislative decision-making process. There are concerns that these contributions could give The Cordish Companies an unfair advantage when it comes to securing contracts and licenses for operating new casinos across North Carolina.

No Illicit Activities despite Concerns

However, it's important to note that accepting such campaign contributions is not illegal under existing laws. Bob Hall, the former executive director of Democracy NC, emphasized that the reported donations may only be a fraction of the money flowing into political campaigns and other funding sources like dark money operations.

Among the recipients of the campaign contributions, Senator Phil Berger and Senator Lisa Barnes stand out, each receiving $5,600 from Joseph Weinberg, the CEO and managing partner of Cordish Gaming Group. The contributions occurred in November and December 2022, before the maximum contribution limit was increased to $6,400 per donor per election. Several other lawmakers also received varying sums from other donors allegedly linked to The Cordish Companies.

Monitoring Upcoming Investments

The revelation of these campaign contributions comes as the state is contemplating a proposal to establish four land-based casinos across North Carolina. House Speaker Tim Moore shared details about the plan, which calls for the development of casinos in Rockingham, Nash, and Anson, and a fourth venue, possibly managed by the Lumbee Tribe in the southeastern part of the state. The ambitious investment plan for the four casinos amounts to $1.5 billion.

Each of the three non-tribal casinos will require an investment of $500 million, with the expectation of generating more than 5,000 jobs and boosting the local economies where these casinos will be situated. The final proposal, however, remains subject to discussion and debate among lawmakers.

The recent revelations of campaign contributions have raised concerns about the transparency and integrity of the decision-making process regarding casino expansion in North Carolina. Critics argue that it is essential to closely monitor the influence of such financial contributions on lawmakers' decisions to ensure fairness and impartiality throughout the legislative process.

As the debate continues, all eyes will be on the North Carolina General Assembly to see how they address the concerns raised by these campaign contributions and how they proceed with the proposed casino expansion that could significantly impact the state's economic landscape.

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