The Lumberton City Council, which has made clear its disdain for video gambling, is working once again to make sure that establishments that offer that form of gaming don’t start popping up around the town if the state’s ongoing efforts to outlaw them fail.
The city now has a moratorium on the establishments, which is a second level of protection as currently video gaming is outlawed by North Carolina, whose intent, hypocritically, is to steer more gambling dollars toward the state lottery and its coffers. But the video-gaming industry is nimble and constantly reinventing itself in order to sidestep the law while clearly being in violation of its spirit.
The city, instead of extending the moratorium that expires June 10, is crafting tougher zoning laws. Some of that work will take place today, the first of a two-day retreat by the City Council.
The council wants zoning laws that are prohibitive, that make it close to impossible for such establishments to meet muster and find room to set up shop. For example, the council is proposing limiting such businesses to just three of 18 zoning districts; forbidding them from locating within 500 feet of another gaming operation, a residential zoning district, a single-family residence, a place of worship, day-care centers or schools, a government building, a public park, playground or library, an adult establishment, a group care facility or a cemetery; and restricting hours and even the number of machines, which could threaten a business’ profitably.
The City Council tried before and failed in this effort, establishing licensing fees that were so outrageous that such establishments had no choice but to flee the city. The fees were later found to be unconstitutional and the citywide moratorium followed.
Interestingly, the city has profited from these businesses, collecting as much as $640,000 in fees in 2010, and $380,000 as recent as last year. The City Council, however, has made the fundamental decision that such establishments, even though they create jobs and pay fees and taxes, are not worth the high social cost to the community.
If you enjoy feeding these machines your hard-earned money, worry not, because if the industry again outruns state law, there will be plenty of cash-starved municipalities in this county that put out the welcome mat, even if one of them is not the county seat.