Under the Dome

Video gambling drops off the screen

From staff reportsFebruary 20, 2011 

You can bet on this: Video gambling won't be coming to North Carolina.

Gov. Bev Perdue chose not to even roll the dice this year, leaving video gambling money out of her proposed budget. But the idea was on the table for Perdue almost until the end, according to her office and others who were closely watching the issue in a tight budget year.

Perdue's consideration of video gambling actually started in late June after she met with some other governors at meetings at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, which has a casino.

At one point in the discussions, her chief of staff, Britt Cobb, went out to a sweepstakes cafe and played. Perdue frowned on what she heard about gambling parlors and seemed more inclined to pursue central control under perhaps the state lottery.

A big factor in Perdue deciding against video gambling was her decision to support keeping most of a temporary sales tax increase on the books. Doing that generates an estimated $800 million and would allow Perdue to protect teachers and teacher assistants from job cuts.

The governor said the decision on gaming also came down to wanting to avoid a fierce debate over the games, estimated by industry groups to bring in $500 million or more.

"I didn't want the next six months, quite frankly, when so much is at stake for North Carolina and our future [is] wrapped around jobs and education and kids, to be distracted by this philosophical and moral debate over gambling and over video poker and the lottery," the governor said.

Within hours, House and Senate leaders indicated they won't be rushing to put video poker in their versions of the budget either, essentially putting a stake in any legislative effort to revive the games.

Gambling supporters still are fighting for survival in the courts, though lawmakers have banned forms of video poker and Internet sweepstakes games three times in the past decade.

Perdue pitches budget

After making her budget plan public, Perdue hit the road on an old-school mission: Persuade some opinion makers to support it.

Perdue visited with editorial boards at several newspapers Thursday and Friday, pitching her plan to the publishers, columnists and others who help shape the opinion sections of newspapers.

Perdue met with editorial writers at The News & Observer in Raleigh, Greenville Daily Reflector, The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte Business Journal, Greensboro News & Record and High Point Enterprise.

She also toured a community college in Greensboro.

Silence in the House

U.S. Rep. Walter Jones said he was satisfied after Speaker John Boehner agreed to hold monthly moments of silence to honor fallen troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jones, a Farmville Republican, two years ago asked then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi to have a moment of silence on the first day of House business each month. She agreed, and he said she kept her word.

When Jones asked Boehner to do the same, though, little happened for weeks. Jones was contacted by Boehner's chief of staff, but that was it.

Any member can offer a moment of silence, but Jones said it was appropriate for this one to come from the House's highest-ranking member.

As reported Thursday by the Huffington Post, Jones had said that if he didn't get action soon, he would put forward a House resolution on the issue.

"It wasn't a threat, but I wanted to get this thing done," Jones said in an interview with The News & Observer. Jones, who has called for an end to the wars, said he doesn't think the delay was about a disagreement over politics.

"To be fair to [Boehner], he's a new speaker. I think it was one of those things that was not at the forefront," Jones said.

But after the Huffington Post website asked about it this week and reported the issue, the House held a moment of silence Thursday morning amid votes, when the full membership was in the chamber.

It was U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson in the speaker's chair rather than Boehner. Johnson, a Texas Republican, is a Vietnam veteran and was a prisoner of war in Hanoi for seven years.

That, said Jones, was appropriate.

"I'm going to write the speaker thanking him for starting the moment of silence, and I don't think it would be more meaningful than for Sam Johnson to be in the speaker's chair," Jones said.

By staff writers J. Andrew Curliss and Barbara Barrett

acurliss@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4840

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