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NC House debates Cherokee gambling bill

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RALEIGH – The last major hurdle has been crossed for a proposal which would expand gambling options in North Carolina.

The state House has given initial approval to a bill that would allow live action gaming on the Eastern Band of Cherokee's Land in western North Carolina.

But many lawmakers said this expansion is a gamble the state should not be taking.

The warnings came from both sides of the aisle Thursday: Legislators who joined hands to say gambling -- in any form -- should not be expanded in North Carolina.

And arguments that the expansion creates jobs aren't telling the whole story.

“If that's the case, perhaps we should take a stand and legalize prostitution,” said Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham. “We could create jobs with that.”

At issue is the casino gambling on the Eastern Band of Cherokee's land. The Qualla Boundary is located in the western part of the state; an area that is one the state's most economically depressed and where people are looking for jobs.

“We'd be replacing machines with live people,” said Rep. Roger West, R-Cherokee.

Right now, there aren't dealers in the casino on reservation, but a new tribal compact with state allows dealers. Now the legislature needs to sign off on that.

“People won't go play machines. They are taking that money to Vegas, Atlantic City, or Dover, or wherever else there is,” said Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquatank.

The proposal has passed the Senate, and after a back and forth with cross-aisle alliances, it got an initial vote of approval in the house with a 66 to 49 vote.

The House is expected to give final approval to the bill next Tuesday.

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