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In My Opinion

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Thanks for protecting us from this great idea

By Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

Here’s a business that wants to move to North Carolina, wants to invest millions in construction and wants to create hundreds of jobs.

It wants to do all this, and it is not asking a penny in state incentives.

Our governor and about 100 lawmakers are crossing their arms, pursing their lips and shaking their heads in stern opposition. No, no, no, they say. This idea the Catawba tribe of South Carolina has for building a casino in Kings Mountain is unacceptable.

Is it even remotely possible that our leaders subscribe to the laughable myth that North Carolina is not already a gambling state?

They may not be aware that a casino already operates in the westernmost wilds of our Smokies, one that spins off millions in tourist dollars annually. It is a gambling enterprise operated by the Cherokee tribe.

They may not be aware that every Saturday night, people clog convenience stores to plunk hard-earned dollars down to play Powerball, whose odds are an astronomical 13 million to 1. It is a gambling enterprise operated by the state.

They may not be aware that you can stroll into bars, restaurants or filling stations in any corner of North Carolina state and encounter a machine that looks like, acts like and pays off like a video poker terminal. It is a gambling enterprise operated by shadowy, unknown entrepreneurs who cannot be stopped because no one in Raleigh is capable of writing a statute to outlaw such “sweepstakes” networks.

Unlike the “sweepstakes” operators, the Catawba could be persuaded to share their rake with the state, which needs money for roads, teachers and – oh, yes – big incentives for movie makers. Our cut could be earmarked for special purposes (which we should have done with the lottery) like providing in-state college scholarships to top performing high school students.

Leaders in Cleveland County are all for the Catawba resort, which would include hotel rooms and restaurants. Gambling and tourism are nonpolluting industries that operate like clockwork: People come, leave their money and go home.

What the Catawbas propose may seem radical because they are offering to operate in the open, to slap a big sign next to Interstate 85 that says, “You can actually gamble over here.”

North Carolina’s state motto is “To be, rather than to seem.” It is nipped from an essay by Cicero, who was making the point that people like to appear virtuous, even if they’re not.

On the gambling issue, the colloquial translation should be: “North Carolina: We just prefer to look the other way.”

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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