RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Leaders of a camp for children with chronic illnesses and disabilities are raising concerns about the potential for a casino to be built near the camp as state lawmakers consider expanding legalized gambling in North Carolina.
The leaders of Camp Carefree on U.S. 220 in Rockingham County learned of the potential project earlier this month when they received word that the county’s planning board was considering a rezoning request by NC Development Holdings.
Records with the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Office show that NC Development Holdings is tied to the Cordish Companies, which is a casino developer based in Maryland.
“We just don’t want a development like this to impact our summer program and take away from these kids who already don’t have a lot,” said Ryan Joyce, a summer program director at Camp Carefree. “This is not something that’s going to be beneficial for the community.”
The Cordish Companies did not respond to a request for comment.
Republican Senate leader Phil Berger, who represents Rockingham County, said last week that the odds of the legislature passing a bill legalizing additional casinos and other gaming options by the end of the summer is “better than 50/50.”
He said lawmakers have not agreed yet on a specific proposal.
“It’s something that can create a fairly substantial additional revenue stream. That revenue stream right now is headed north into Virginia,” he said.
Berger noted he recently traveled to the new casino that opened this spring in Danville, Va., which is near the North Carolina state line and less than an hour from the potential site in Rockingham County.
When Berger got to the casino he said about “80 percent” of the license plates in the parking lot were from North Carolina.
In response to questions about the Rockingham County rezoning, a spokesperson for Berger said: “Expanding gaming in North Carolina remains a conversation in the General Assembly, but what that expansion looks like has not been determined. Sen. Berger is supportive of efforts to expand gaming, but it is still too early in the discussions to comment on any specifics.”
A conservative group called Greater Carolina recently released a study by Spectrum Gaming that looked at the potential of North Carolina adding three more casinos. The study considered three locations: Rockingham, Anson, and Nash counties. The study by the group found an estimated “casino leakage to Virginia” of about $259 million annually in gross gaming revenue.
CBS 17 has reached out to planning officials in Anson and Nash counties about whether there have been any similar rezoning requests made in those counties.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) recently said lawmakers were considering authorizing four “entertainment districts” that could include casinos. He did not say where those locations would be. On its website, the Cordish Companies highlights its work creating entertainment districts in various cities.
Republicans continue to discuss both the potential additional casinos, as well as, how to resolve the differences they still have over what to include in the state budget.
The new fiscal year began July 1 with no new budget in place. Republicans say a key issue is how much to cut the state’s income tax rate and how soon those cuts should go into effect.
After a public hearing last week, Rockingham County’s planning board recommended against rezoning the land near Camp Carefree in a 5-2 vote. The final decision on the rezoning will be made by the county’s Board of Commissioners. Berger’s son, Kevin, is one of the five commissioners.
Board Chairman Mark Richardson declined to comment on the request when contacted by WGHP but noted he would do so next month around the time the board is scheduled to consider the matter, which is slated for Aug. 21.
“My personal policy is not to comment publicly until I have all available information to vote on a zoning issue and the applicant has released their intent,” he said.