A House committee recommended a bill yesterday that would ban video-poker machines in North Carolina by next summer, that means a dramatic change in Jim Black’s position. Without dissenting votes, the House Rules Committee approved a bill that would reduce the number of machines that retailers could operate. The maximum number of machines is 3 but the bill would reduce it to 2 by October 1; 1 by March 1 and 0 by July 2007.
According to a spokeswoman for Black, a full-house vote could come as early as today. The Senate has approved a ban several times since 2000, including this year. The sheriffs´ Association from North Carolina has also supported a ban, while the video-poker industry opposes to the idea. "It's a good compromise.
I don't think either side is totally happy", said Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank, who will lead arguments on the House floor to pass the bill. For a long time, Black, D-Mecklenburg, has declined to support a ban because they think video poker is a legal industry that generates thousands of jobs.
During the 2002 and 2004 elections, Black's campaign received $167,000 in industry contributions, according to the campaign-reform group Democracy North Carolina. Black is also linked to state and federal investigations of the video-poker industry. County sheriffs estimate that there are 20,000 illegal electronic-poker machines in North Carolina, twice the number of legal machines in the state.
A consulting firm hired by the gaming industry said earlier this month that “the legal machines are directly responsible for 1,752 jobs and more than $100 million to the state economy.” "My concern is what is going to happen to the families and the employees of the industry", said Rep. Thomas Wright, D-New Hanover.