Internet gaming licenses have become big business for the city of Laurinburg.
During the city council’s agenda planning meeting this week, City Manager Ed Burchins called on the council to “fight for our right to regulate local Internet cafes.”
“This has become a very important revenue source for us … and it is something that I’m sure will come under attack in next year’s general assembly,” Burchins said, predicting that the state would look to assume authority over Internet gaming licensing.
“The state is going to have budgetary problems, and I heard that this is the revenue source they will be looking toward.”
If the state does target Internet gaming, it will be because of how successful licensing programs have been in cities like Laurinburg where $211,548 was collected during the 2011-12 fiscal year.
The final amount collected exceeded the budgeted $70,000 by more than $140,000.
Laurinburg currently charges its approximately 15 gaming establishments $2,000 per operation and $400 per machine.
So far this fiscal year, which began July 1, the city has collected approximately $40,000 of the $100,000 it budgeted for 2012-13. And the licensees have reliably paid up, too, said city Finance Director Cindy Carpenter.
“All of the fees have been collected with none currently outstanding” Carpenter said. “There was one that didn’t pay, and it is no longer in business.”
Council plans to add Internet gaming to its list of legislative concerns to the General Assembly for the upcoming year.
The city will also continue to advocate for local regulation of the Internet gaming industry through the NC League of Municipalities.
“It has been the League’s position in the past to oppose the (Internet gaming) facilities,” Burchins said. But that may be changing.
“Now that so many cities are relying on the establishments for revenue, I think that position might be different next year.”
It also appears that the city’s licensing program is on solid ground legally.
The city of Fayetteville lost a suit recently against representatives of the gaming industry because of the city’s licensing fee structure which was based on anticipated law enforcement costs incurred because of the Internet gaming facilities.
Coming out victorious in a similar suit was the City of Lumberton, which has a fee structure based on the one used in Laurinburg.
“I think we will be OK legally,” Burchins said.