If a casino bill unveiled this weekend is passed, Columbus County is one of the places the Lumbee Tribe could build its gambling center — although such a project is unlikely.
Republican Sen. Bill Berger’s office on Saturday revealed a proposal authorizing four more special districts where casinos could be established. The new version of the previous bill allows one casino on Lumbee tribal land, along with three non-tribal casinos statewide. Anson, Rockingham and Nash counties remain at the top of the list for the latter.
The Lumbee casino could be built Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Hoke, New Hanover, Richmond, Robeson and Scotland under the proposal. Robeson is considered the most likely candidate for the Lumbee casino, which would be owned by the tribe but operated by a casino management company.
Under the old proposal, the state anticipated $400 million per year in excise tax revenue from the casino operations. That number does not include revenues for the tribe or revenues brought to the economy of the casino’s home county.
The developers would not be eligible for tax credits or incentives under the proposal, but would be required to pay 22.5 percent of the revenues to the state as an excise tax. A $500,000 application fee and $7.5 million proposal fee for each site would be paid to the state.
The state Secretary of Administration would have the authority to choose the locations of the tourism districts, after local governments passed resolutions of support.
Currently, only the Cherokee Tribe in western North Carolina is allowed to operate casinos on tribal land.
Rural tourism districts would be created by the state to allow the casinos to operate. The districts would not be allowed within 75 miles of each other.
The proposal has several requirements, including Tier One status for the county, be on a state border and have a population of fewer than 100,000. The county also may not have tribal lands dedicated to gaming as of July 1; must be east of I-95 or border a county east of the north-south interstate; and be within 90 miles of an international airport. Other requirements are aimed at placing casinos in the northeastern and western part of the state.
Casino developers would be required to create 1,750 jobs per facility, and invest at least $500 million in private funding for each rural tourism district.
A vote on the proposal could occur this week, possibly Wednesday. While Berger has support for the plan in the senate, the House Republican support is still short, since the bill would be tied to the state budget along with Medicaid expansion. House Republicans have sought a “clean” budget bill without added legislation.
The casino bill is separate from a proposal to allow video gambling terminals in bars, restaurants and other establishments.