LAURINBURG — A candidate for District 1 has asked the Laurinburg City Council to pledge to place a moratorium on video gambling machines.
But city officials said the machines are already banned within the city limits.
Mary Evans, who is seeking to unseat incumbent J.D. Willis, asked to speak at Tuesday’s City Council meeting about crime in Laurinburg.
Evans, a long-time critic of how the city deals with crime, said allowing gambling in Laurinburg would make the problem worse.
Armed with statistics from several studies, Evans said that about 1,800 people in the county could become addicted if gambling is allowed to flourish. She said video gaming would lead to new crimes, suicides and bankruptcies.
“The cost to the city and the county will be astronomical,” Evans said. “These people will no longer be taxpayers, but tax liabilities.”
Councilman Curtis Leak said North Carolina already allows the lottery and that he did not see a distinction.
“Gambling is gambling,” Leak said.
But Mayor Matthew Block said there was a difference similar to alcohol and cocaine both being drugs, but one is illegal.
City Attorney Bill Floyd told the board that there is a city ordinance restricting on all video gaming machines in Laurinburg.
“What you are asking for, we are already doing,” Willis said. “These machines cannot come into the city of Laurinburg. So that takes care of that.”
The state had ruled video gaming machines of chance illegal. But a court ruling in July that upheld an existing restraining order that effectively prevents law enforcement officers at the state, county municipal levels from enforcing related laws.
Pastor Michael Edds, who also spoke on the issue, said he would still like Laurinburg leaders to take a stand against gambling.
“Whatever we can do to protect our city, we should do,” he said.
Video poker machines became an issue in the local council races after the city council in Lumberton said it would considers new regulations for gaming establishments there.
Earlier this month, the Lumberton City Council, without comment, approved a consent agenda that included sending the requests to the city’s Planning Board, with City Council having the final decision. It had been reported incorrectly that the permits had been approved.
“If we get the same council, you can bet your bottom dollar Laurinburg will be lined with gambling parlors,” Block said in a Facebook post from Oct. 11.
Mayor Block is opposed to the three incumbents on the council seeking re-election.
The council also heard from Michael Schmidt, who said the current council was anti-business.
“Council must be more open to supporting businesses,” said Schmidt, a Block supporter. “If Laurinburg prospers, it will be in spite of the Laurinburg City Council.”
Edds agreed and pointed to the city trying to stifle growth and new business.
According to Edds, Treasure City Pawn was not allowed to expand because city officials “didn’t want a pawn shop and auction house on Main Street.”
Edds, who is supporting Evans, also blamed the city for not allowing the Gryphon Group to expand a facility in Laurinburg District 1.
“Where is the effort to keep businesses here?” Edds said.
Council members said Edds was wrong.
“What you said is good intention, but check your facts,” Leak said.
The pawn shop wasn’t allowed to expand due to city zoning laws, and the Gryphon Group was approved to expand into Laurinburg, but the building that the military group was considering was already sold, according to council.
“Michael Edds facts were grossly distorted, what he was quoting was totally false,” Councilwoman Mary Jo Adams said.
Adams said Tuesday’s presentations were more about politics than real concerns.
“To come before council two days before early voting to talk about crime, drugs, and gambling, that the city has already not allowed, was purely political,” she said after the meeting.
Reach Nolan Gilmour at 910-506-3171