Aug 14, 2023 - Development

Cross-border casino rivalry brewing between Virginia and North Carolina

Illustration of a dice with money signs on it instead of dots.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

North Carolina lawmakers are coming for Virginia's newly opened casinos.

What's happening: Officials in the state are annoyed that Virginia is making so much money off of North Carolinians, who are the primary source of revenue for Caesars Virginia, which opened in May just across the border in Danville.

Driving the news: North Carolina lawmakers are considering allowing private casinos in three rural, economically distressed counties, reports Axios Raleigh's Lucille Sherman.

  • That includes Rockingham County, a 20-minute drive from Danville.

Why it matters: When Virginia authorized casino gambling, officials projected the venues would bring in $262 million in new tax revenue every year. But those numbers assumed out-of-state customers would flock from North Carolina and Tennessee.

  • State auditors have estimated as much as 86% of the Danville casino's revenue would come from out-of-state customers.
  • They warned back in 2019 that makes the development vulnerable to any changes in state law across the border.

What they're saying: Republican North Carolina State Senate leader Phil Berger, who lives just 30 minutes away from Danville in Eden, North Carolina, told Axios that the casino is siphoning as much as $250 million out of his state and into Virginia.

  • Legalizing new casinos, Berger argues, could "stem the tide" of revenue and jobs flowing to Virginia.
  • Casinos could also help improve economic growth in the state's most distressed counties, Berger said — places where population growth and median income are lower and unemployment is higher — especially in places that lost major industries, like tobacco, years ago.

The intrigue: North Carolina's Republican supermajority in the legislature voted to legalize online sports betting earlier this year, but the gambling proposals remain controversial.

  • Opponents have been targeting prominent Republicans with attack mailers arguing the developments would expose communities to violent crime, addiction and sex trafficking.

Flashback: This isn't the first cross-border gambling rivalry between the two states.

  • North Carolina didn't launch its own lottery until 2006, prior to which Virginia Lottery officials estimated as much as 10% of revenue came from North Carolina residents, per news reports from the time.

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