The Baltimore-based The Cordish Companies has a high possibility of winning a casino bid if North Carolina's Legislature passed a new law that intends to allow three commercial gaming resorts. State Representative Jason Saine and North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger are some of the state's lawmakers who have received a Maryland-based gaming operator's campaign contributions. They are supporting the Tar Heel State's new gaming bill.
Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) is reviewing a draft bill which seeks to allow Anson, Nash, and Rockingham counties to establish one resort each. The legislation is called the Rural Tourism Incentive Program and it requires North Carolina to choose one casino operator through a bidding process who will build and run the three casino resorts.
Now, it seems that The Cordish Companies is the leading entity in the state's commercial casino license race. Reports show that the gaming operator has made a deal with a local rich family with 193 acres in Rockingham.
Still, the company wants to buy the vast vacant land after the state rezones it for commercial use. Berger is confident that North Carolina will prevent Virginia casinos from attracting its players if it establishes several commercial gaming sites along the I-95 corridor or in the northern region.
Which Are the Campaign Contributions?
A recent report from the Carolina Public Press stated that The Cordish Companies has sent financial contributions to several local politicians in the recent past. The nonprofit news organization further revealed that at least eight Republican lawmakers got the company's donations between November 2022 and March 2023.
Joseph Weinberg, The Cordish Companies Gaming Division's CEO gave Berger $5,600. He also gave Senator Lisa Barnes(R-Nash), Representative Jason Saine(R-Lincoln), and Representative John Bell(R-Wayne) a similar amount of money.
The gaming operator's Chief Operating Officer, Zed Smith, gave Senator David Craven (R-Anson), Representative Kyle Hall (R-Forsyth), and Representative Larry Strickland (R-Johnston) $2,500. State Senator Todd Johnson (R-Union) received $2,500 from Rhonda Smith, Zed Smith's wife.
Even so, Representative Kathy Manning(D-NC), the only Democrat to get a donation on the federal level from Cordish received $2,500. These contributions don't violate ethics regulations since they are legal. Yet, some people claim that they will complicate the casino license bidding process.
Bob Hall, Democracy NC's former director, said that The Cordish Companies' contributions are a small percentage of the money being given to political campaigns. Besides, some politicians and General Assembly aspirants might be funding certain dark operations. The non-partisan organization champions democracy in the state.
Will There Be a Fourth Tribal Gaming Venue?
While crafting his draft bill, Berger added a provision that will protect eastern North Carolina for a tribal casino that the Lumbee Tribe will own and operate. But the federal government has to recognize the Pembroke-based tribe first.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) owns Harrah's Cherokee Valley River and Harrah's Cherokee while the Catawba Indian Nation runs Catawba Two Kings Casino in North Carolina.