On Tuesday night, over 500 people came to Ellisboro Baptist Church in Madison to express their opinions regarding a possible casino in Rockingham County. Most people who spoke at the meeting opposed the casino proposal, explaining that it could increase crime in the area and lead to moral decay within the society. Only one person embraced the idea of bringing a casino to Rockingham County.
During the meeting, a Rockingham County resident said that casinos target and exploit poor people, who believe that gambling could help them improve their lifestyle. Another attendee explained that Rockingham County residents did not want a casino to be established in the area. Casino naysayers are doing everything possible to convince lawmakers to scrap the casino project.
Opponents even asked Mark Walker, former U.S. Congressman and Republican candidate running for North Carolina Governor, to support their efforts to block the casino proposal. Walker expressed concerns over the lack of transparency regarding the casino project. He added that powerful individuals like Republican lawmaker Phil Berger back the idea, and the only way to convince legislators to say no to the casino proposal is to unite.
Phil Berger believes that the gambling venue would create nearly 17,000 new jobs and pump around $6 million into the county’s economy every year. Last November, Berger allegedly accepted $5,600 in campaign contributions from the Cordish Companies.
Plans to Bring Casino to Rockingham County are Still Up in the Air
Last month, NC Development Holdings asked the county planning board to rezone 192 acres in Rockingham County, which would allow the company to use it for commercial purposes. A curious fact is that the company has the same registration address as Baltimore-based gaming developer The Cordish Cos., which allegedly donated over $34k to political campaigns. The planning board did not approve the company’s request. County commissioners are expected to vote for or against the rezoning of the land on August 21.
Speaking at the meeting yesterday, Sheriff Sam Page said that having a casino in the county has its advantages and disadvantages and added that public safety must be of utmost importance when discussing the casino project. Sheriff Page noted that the county has already been struggling with drug overdoses and human trafficking.
Stephen James, a professional poker deal, was the only one at the meeting speaking in favor of the casino proposal. He pointed out that the casino in Cherokee lifted the nearly 16,000 members of the tribe out of poverty. James believes that the casino would bring significant economic benefits to the community which hosts it.
However, the future of the proposed casino remains unclear because the Legislature first has to authorize commercial casinos. Besides, there is no specific deadline for the legislation to be drafted.