RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) — Numerous officials are speaking out over legislation that could tie Medicaid expansion to the addition of new casinos in North Carolina.

On Monday, the North Carolina Senate Democratic Caucus released a letter reacting to the newly proposed legislation that removes both casinos and Medicaid expansion from the main state budget, which has remained unpassed, and put them in a separate bill, making the “priority” issue of Medicaid expansion dependent upon casinos.

The bill includes one casino on Lumbee tribal land as well as three non-tribal casinos. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said previously that those other three casinos are expected to go in Anson, Rockingham and Nash counties, but those counties were not specifically named in the legislation.

Rockingham County residents, including Sheriff Sam Page, who is running for lieutenant governor, have been vocally against the proposed location of the casino, saying they believe it to be too close to Camp Carefree.

Gov. Roy Cooper took to X, formerly Twitter, to call the proposals “brutally dishonest.

The full text of the Democrats’ letter can be read below:

The Cordish issue

The Democrats take issue with Medicaid being linked to the casino bills, stating that the Republicans have lost “significant support within their own caucuses and constituents for casinos” as the budget has stalled.

“It’s straining the imagination to conjure a scenario where 11 million people would be held hostage for the bidding of a Maryland casino developer, but that’s where we are today,” the letter states.

UNITE HERE, a union with a local chapter in Charlotte, released a letter in opposition to the bill, claiming that many of the proposed requirements stifle competition amongst developers for the proposed casinos. The union adds that “the proposed language would create a selection process heavily biased towards Cordish,” a Maryland-based developer. Cordish is one of the only major gaming developers that also has extensive experience in non-gaming real estate.

According to the legislation, any businesses seeking to develop the “rural entertainment districts” would have to meet the following criteria: “create at least 1,750 jobs; invest at least $500 million in private funds in each district; be located in a site that has been deemed eligible through a resolution adopted by the local government; have 10 years of experience in the commercial gaming industry; have 10 years of experience in developing and operating mixed-use, non-gaming real estate projects.”

There is also no limit on the districts that a single developer could bid for and be awarded.

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At least one local property owner has expressed concerns after making land deals that appear to be connected to Cordish, according to the News and Observer, saying that he asked what type of jobs the proposed development would be and claiming that an attorney, who is a registered lobbyist for Cordish, told him that the jobs would be “85% white collar.”

The Democratic Caucus does not mention Cordish by name but states “we, the members of the North Carolina Senate Democratic Caucus, will not be held hostage by Republican leadership in delivering for their handpicked casino developer in their pay-to-play scheme. We are united in opposing this latest political stunt.”

What’s next?

Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), who is a top budget writer in the House, told CBS 17 that votes for the budget and the combined Medicaid/casino bill would take place on Wednesday and Thursday.