Checking out North Carolina’s casino gambling industry

Oct 16, 2012 3:00 AM

North Carolina’s casino gambling industry is confined to a single tribal location in the Great Smoky Mountains run by Harrah’s. The hotel/casino in Cherokee is somewhat accessible to western North Carolina players, but more for eastern Tennessee gamblers.

With three distinctive geographic regions east to west (and three distinct styles of barbeque as well), it’s a 10-hour drive from the Atlantic Coast Outer Banks to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The University of North Carolina and Duke University in Durham, coupled with NASCAR are the sporting religions in the state. Add in North Carolina State and Wake Forest University and you have a potent and entertaining year-round athletic presence.

UNC is mired in a series of scandals, which resulted in popular Chancellor Holden Thorp resigning. Investigations uncovered several athletic based infractions under his watch. He has returned to his post in the UNC chemistry department.

The transgressions date back to the Butch Davis football era with numerous academic violations along with questionable characters hanging around the program.

More recently a kerfuffle erupted involving basketball star Tyler Hansbrough’s mom who was quietly hired as a publicist for the UNC alumni association. She proceeded to have a torrid affair with the alumni director, including bogus travel and expense accounts. She is no longer employed by UNC.

Additionally, NFL star and UNC legend Julius Peppers’ alleged grade transcripts revealed he took numerous courses in Afro-American studies for which he received B-minus, B or B-plus grades, thereby keeping his GPA above the minimum required by the NCAA for eligibility to play. The AFAM Departament has come under scrutiny by the school for fraud and poor oversight. Roy Williams, UNC hoops guru, had tumors on both kidneys, happily both benign.

The expansion of the ACC in 2013 adjusts its geographical center and media clout from Miami to Boston and, now with the addition of Notre Dame, Chicago and the Midwest. The entry of Syracuse delivers the NYC market, and Pitt brings both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. This gives the conference a commanding presence in the big dollar eastern markets with millions of TV eyeballs and advertising bucks to spend on acquiring high profile recruits.

ACC baseball, track, and lacrosse programs are frequent visitors to championship tournaments, especially UVA, UNC, UM, and Clemson. FSU remains the national leader in NCAA track and field.

Halfway through the football season Florida State looked like it would be big boy bowl bound until NC State’s upset. Clemson is a strong entry, but a borderline top 20 team. Virginia Tech and the rest appear to be mediocre at best. Miami with Al Golden rebuilding shows some signs of breakthrough but has a long way to go.

The specter of NCAA sanctions remain and a recent front page expose by the Miami Herald on Sean Allen, the expeditor of Nevin Shapiro’s ill-gotten largess to “The U” football recruits and stars will exacerbate that punishment.

Virginia’s offense goes up and down the field but seldom scores. Maryland has talent but is inconsistent. Boston College is in the rebuilding mode and Duke is becoming competitive. UNC with early wins over Elon, East Carolina and Idaho hadn’t been truly tested – but beating the Hokies with FSU on the horizon bodes well for another bowl appearance.

ACC football, even with Miami, FSU and BC has been a disappointment. Conference bigwigs want that changed and soon. The addition of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame (all sports except football) should take the conference up a big notch, and shortly compete at a level with the Big 10, SEC, Pac 12 and Big 12.

The NFL Carolina Panthers singlehandedly changed the state’s blue laws allowing purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages early on Sunday afternoons. Depending upon Cam Newton’s accuracy, the team is very competitive and exciting to watch.

Michael Jordan, UNC’s fabled No. 23 has not fared well as owner of the NBA Charlotte Bobcats. Jordan says he’ll step back and let the basketball experts run his team. Based upon his track record with the Washington Bullets/Wizards, this is welcomed by fans across the state.

The NHL lockout has hurt the Raleigh-based Carolina Hurricanes. A fan favorite with plentiful community involvement events, the team may suffer eroding attendance – out of sight out of mind.

NASCAR has its (running hooch) roots around the stills of the Smokey’s. Most of the top drivers live and build their cars in and around Charlotte. The Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of the most challenging ovals, and its sky boxes and luxury condos make it a major venue for the stock car fans. Storied Rockingham Raceway no longer hosts the Sprint Cup but does feature top stock car and truck racing.

Golf is a major economic engine for Carolina sporting dollars. From Pinehurst to Quail Hollow to Greensboro the PGA, LPGA and Legends tours are annual visitors attracting huge crowds. Courses are virtually everywhere and well maintained. Next to Florida it is the east coast mecca for the duffers.

As for Florida

• The 2012 Florida Quarterhorse Racing Association’s annual membership meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10 at AVS Equine Hospital in Tallahassee, Fla.

• Calder Race Course/Casino now charging horsemen $10/day/horse for stabling expenses during the off season.

• Miami AD Sean Einhorst resigned to take the University of Nebraska post following Tom Osborne’s retirement. Miami President Donna Shalala says she’s in no hurry to hire, wanting to wait for the NCAA punishment sanctions due soon.

• Donald Trump adds to his Florida empire, purchasing the Ritz Carlton Golf Club and Spa in Jupiter.

• Miami Herald reports Palm Beach entrepreneur Glenn Straub sold his downtown Miami Arena site to the Falcone Group of Boca. The site abuts Falcone’s 20-acre site titled Miami World Center. Las Vegas Sands expressed interest in that property for a potential casino.

• Brevard County voters will decide addition of slots at the Melbourne Greyhound Park should the legislature approve…the first gambling initiative in conservative central Florida.

• Organizers for the storied Del Ray Beach Tennis Stadium are proposing a new domed stadium to accommodate concerts and other events.

Baird Thompson and William Hutchinson bring a combined 80 years of gaming marketing and administration experience to Gaming Today. Contact them at [email protected]

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