Bob Hall

Democracy NC Executive Director Bob Hall speaks to the media in front of posters documenting sweepstakes industry contributions to Gov. McCrory, Senator Phil Berger and former Speaker Thom Tillis in August.

Raleigh’s News & Observer reports this morning that Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman is investigating the ties between gambling industry executives and some important state political leaders and has asked the FBI for assistance. The news comes months after the State Board of Elections chose not to pursue the matter further following a lengthy but incomplete investigation.

For those who may have forgotten, here is what advocates at the government watchdog group Democracy North Carolina had to say in the aftermath of the State Board’s decision this past summer when they called on Freeman and U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker to investigate “possible criminal violations involving the sweepstakes gaming industry, lobbyists and candidates in the 2012 election, including Gov. Pat McCrory, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, and then House Speaker Thom Tillis”:

“After two years, the State Board of Elections voted on July 15, 2015, not to find or pursue any violations related to North Carolina’s campaign finance statutes. However, a number of findings in the report prepared by the staff reinforce my concern about illegal acts.

These include:

  • One lobbyist (Tommy Sevier of Moore & Van Allen) admitted he delivered bundled contributions on two occasions (pages 29-30 of the
    SBE report).
  • Bank account records of the Chase Burns Trust showed millions of dollars transferred from his IIT sweepstake software corporation into the Trust’s account, which was used to write $274,000 in campaign contributions to dozens of legislators and others, making the Burns
    Trust the top campaign donor to NC candidates in the 2012 election cycle (pages 9-15 of the SBE report).
  • The contributions written from the Chase Burns Trust roughly follow the recommendations in a memo titled “IIT Political Contribution Strategy” that was prepared by lobbyists at Moore & Van Allen, the firm retained not by Burns personally but by his sweepstakes’ corporation, IIT (Exhibit 2 of the SBE report).
  • The IIT corporation collected a 3% surcharge on sweepstakes parlor owners it serviced for a political and lobbying fund. A different but somewhat similar arrangement in Florida included allocating part of the surcharge for campaign donations, but Board staff did not find a similar link to donations in the NC arrangement (pages 32 of the SBE report).
  • Gardner Payne, a major sweepstakes operator, “talked about raising money from the sweepstakes industry for Governor McCrory” during a meeting where the two men discussed ways to legalize the sweepstakes industry (pages 32 of the SBE report). Read More
Casino slots


If you subscribe to or frequently check out Raleigh’s News & Observer, you probably saw the featured Sunday story that looked at casino gambling in Cherokee as well as the coming expansions and the efforts to introduce more of the same in South Carolina under the banner of the Catawba tribe. It was a good and well-written story — as far as it went.

Unfortunately,  here’s the one hugely important item that you didn’t see anywhere in the lengthy and quite-thoroughly illustrated story: Any mention whatsoever of the the way that large and predatory gambling corporations exploit Native American tribes along with a huge proportion of the customers who visit the casinos.

One would think it might have occurred. After all, one of the Cherokee customers interviewed for the story admitted that he frequents Cherokee “42-44 weekends a year.”  Good lord, what’s next? An upbeat profile of a regular slot machine player who shares a cheap hotel room with seven other people and frequents the local blood bank?

Not that it would be hard to find out the truth about the predations of the casino industry or the tribes and individuals it exploits. Les Bernal, the longtime executive director of the national nonprofit Stop Predatory Gambling (a group that does great work bringing together liberal and conservative gambling opponents) has been in North Carolina multiple times — including this summer — to speak out against the effort to create a Catawba Nation casino. Moreover, SPG’s website is chock full of stories and analyses detailing the disasters that predatory casino gambling typically begets. This is from a section devoted to Native American casinos: Read More


CasinosRaleigh’s News & Observer reports this morning that the Catawba Indian tribe has filed papers designed to jumpstart efforts to build a new gambling casino in Cleveland County.

As noted here previously, this would be an unmitigated disaster — especially for the thousands of people from whom casino corporations would extract millions upon millions of dollars. The mere fact that the casino would be gussied up via an affiliation with a Native American tribe is ultimately of no value in alleviateing this situtation.

The good folks at the national group Stop Predatory Gambling  put it this way is a special and informative web page devoted to the dangers of Native American casinos: Read More


Video pokerIt’s not often that the North Carolina Family Policy Council gets an important issue right, but here is one on which its leaders are correct and deserving of an “attagirl/attaboy”: the madness of bringing a new gambling casino to North Carolina. 

As Raleigh’s News & Observer reported last week, the McCrory administration has been exploring the possibility of a deal with the South Carolina-based Catawba Indian Tribe to locate a casino just over the border in western North Carolina. The reaction of a lot of folks of different stripes to the proposal has been decidedly negative so let’s hope the Guv is already consigning the idea to the circular file.

But still, Family Policy Council director John Rustin deserves credit for taking a strong stand earlier this week and saying the following: Read More


McCrory11092012No one has presented any evidence thus far of any wrongdoing by Governor Pat McCrory or his campaign in the growing scandal surrounding campaign checks from the video “sweepstakes” (aka video poker) industry, but at some point, the Governor would do well to address the issue and answer some questions.

This is because the hard and uncomfortable truth is that the checks appear to have been funneled through the law firm at which the Governor (a non-lawyer) worked for many years on matters that have never been explained and on behalf of clients that have never been identified.  Read More