The Sin Wagon Part 2: Gambling

May 27, 2022
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Rob Christensen, the long-time progressive political commentator at the New & Observer, often attributed the following statement to former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole: “North Carolina is the buckle on the Bible Belt, and its politics reflect that.

The implication being North Carolina’s large population of regular church goers and born again, evangelical Christians shape an outsized role for Judeo-Christian values and Christian morality in our state’s politics.

North Carolina’s position as one of the last Southern states to adopt a state lottery and the most recent state to add a ban on same-sex marriage to its constitution often are attributed to this strong Christian streak in our politics.

With several gambling-related proposals floating around the General Assembly, most notably legislation legalizing online sports betting, we thought it would be a good time to gauge voters’ opinions on gambling issues.

We asked voters four questions on gaming issues:

  1. Would you support or oppose the General Assembly shutting down the North Carolina Education Lottery?
  2. Would you support or oppose the General Assembly legalizing sports betting in North Carolina?
  3. Would you support or oppose the General Assembly legalizing casino gaming in North Carolina?
  4. Would you support or oppose the General Assembly authorizing the North Carolina Education Lottery to offer electronic lottery games through video lottery terminals?

The responses show public opinion on gambling issues is nuanced and evolving.

Would you support or oppose the General Assembly … All Voters Evangelical Christians
Support Oppose Support Oppose
Shutting down the North Carolina Education Lottery? 29% 65% 31% 65%
Legalizing sports betting in North Carolina? 45% 48% 36% 56%
Legalizing casino gaming in North Carolina? 54% 42% 48% 48%
Authorizing the North Carolina Education Lottery to offer electronic lottery games through video lottery terminals? 39% 54% 37% 57%

You can review the complete crosstabs here, NC Statewide Survey Gambling, but rest assured that North Carolina voters have absolutely no interest in shutting down the state lottery. And they’re supportive of legalizing casino gaming in the state.  But voters’ thoughts on gambling issues are nuanced, expressing opposition to legalized sports betting and expanded lottery gaming options.

And interestingly, evangelical voters are driving the difference in voters’ opinions on these gambling issues.  Evangelical voters oppose shutting down the lottery and are evenly divided on legalizing casino gaming. But their opposition by about 20 percentage points to both sports betting and expanded lottery gaming is a big reason those two issues fail to win a majority of support with all voters.

So even if the buckle isn’t as big and shiny as it once was, there are still issues in our state that support Senator Dole’s contention that “North Carolina is the buckle on the Bible Belt, and its politics reflect that.”


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