The North Carolina legislature, with Republican supermajorities, has failed to come up with a new state budget, because Senate Leader Phil Berger, among others, wants casinos included in it. It has been reported that Senate and House leaders are proposing casinos to be developed in Anson, Nash, and Rockingham counties. I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall the GOP asking us to give them a supermajority so we can open casinos in our state. This is fiscally and socially irresponsible. North Carolina should pass a budget without new casino sites included.

Expanding casino sites is fiscally irresponsible. The main driver behind the casinos is the misconstrued idea that it would be a financial windfall for the state. Tourists have several options to gamble these days, including Cherokee and now online sport gambling in the state. The math of the additional people coming to North Carolina to spend money is simply over exaggerated by the gambling industry. Also, when anyone spends money on one activity, they elect to not spend it on another. So, it is likely that our beautiful mountains, sandy beaches, and other wonderful and positive socially beneficial activities will see a corresponding decrease in spending and a reduction in tax revenue. In the end, only the house wins, and the state and everyone else loses financially.

Conservative Republicans regularly point out that strong families create strong community. Gambling destroys the social fabric of communities. Those who are most vulnerable are the ones typically hurt. We know that gambling-connected impacts — such as gambling addiction, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse — tear apart the family. Therefore, gambling would increase the cost to North Carolina citizens related to the effect of having fatherless homes.

Prostitution, and therefore sex trafficking, also increases around gambling sites. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, nearly 100,000 US Children are victims of sex trafficking each year. The I-95 corridor is known as a hot zone for transporting these victims. Planting a casino in North Carolina will just enhance these risks to innocent children.

We should leave sin to sin city and not import more of it to our state. According to research by Tiina Latvala, Tomi Lintonen & Anne Konu published in 2019, titled “Public health effects of gambling — debate on a conceptual model,” “[S]tudies have mostly ignored social impacts, choosing to measure only the economic costs or benefits that are quite easily quantifiable. This approach, however, presents a very biased view of the situation.”

Certainly, gambling can be a form of entertainment, but that isn’t the only thing it brings to the communities that embrace it. City, county and state social services are strained to keep up with the new demand for services due to the negative effects of addictive gambling. The alleged financial gain is gone when you consider the services the state would end up providing related to drug, alcohol, and gambling issues that will increase with the increased availability of gambling. Have the legislators considered that drunk driving — and therefore innocent deaths from drunk driving — will increase?

When all this is considered, one can only say, “Heck no, casinos can go.” They should be dropped from the budget discussions. If Republicans want to run on expanding casinos and all the negative consequences they bring, they should do so in the next election. Let the voters decide if we want to send them back to power to expand the casino options in our state. If they won’t run on it, why let it hold up our state budget?