PlayLive NC LLC, an LLC owned by the Cordish Companies, has requested an NC sports betting operator application.
The Cordish Companies is a Maryland-based real estate company with developments in the entertainment and hospitality industries. Their gambling projects include the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casinos in Florida and Live! Casinos in Maryland, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
NCSharp found that Cordish Companies affiliates donated to councilmen and state lawmakers to rezone over 190 acres in Rockingham for “highway commercial” and to aid commercial casino legalization.
The Cordish Companies’ interest in North Carolina online sports betting is a small part of its larger interest in gambling expansion in the state.
Cordish Companies’ North Carolina connections
When North Carolina lawmakers considered casino legalization in 2023, they planned on four new casinos – one tribal-run and three commercial. Initially, draft legislation stated that a single developer would be in charge of building the three commercial casinos.. At that time, Cordish Companies appeared to be the odds-on favorite to get that license.
Later in the session, an amended casino bill changed that requirement so one or more developers could build casinos in North Carolina. Casino legislation stalled in 2023, yet Cordish still maintains a pole position in any future casino expansion plans.
An affiliate of the Cordish Companies, NC Development Holdings, requested rezoning in Rockingham County, one of the potential casino sites. The rezoning was unanimously approved despite a strong public protest, so the final step would be the state law allowing commercial casinos.
Rockingham rezoning lawsuit
After the Rockingham rezoning, a group of landowners sued the county. The suit alleged that the decision to rezone Rockingham’s 192 acres was illegal and “shrouded in secrecy and deceit.”
The community alleged that the Commission failed to admit that the rezoning was for a future casino despite trips to Maryland to visit the Cordish Companies and the proposed state plans for a casino there.
Local outrage over the rezoning has been fueled by fears of increased crime in the areas surrounding the casino. However, a previous NCSharp investigation found no evidence for increased crime around rural casinos. That investigation did find a 30% increase in property values in the immediate areas around new casinos in the two years following the casino’s opening.
Nevertheless, the Cordish Companies have a contentious relationship with Rockingham County.
PlayLive! presence is large in other states
The Cordish Companies have left a deep footprint in major markets across the country. Their PlayLive! brand includes an online casino in Pennsylvania and properties that span several states, including:
PlayLive! has also developed districts in large metropolitan areas, including:
– Ballpark Village, St. Louis, MO.
– Fourth Street Live!, Louisville, KY.
– Kansas City Live!, Kansas City, MO.
– Live! At The Battery, Atlanta, GA.
– Nashville Live!, Nashville, TN.
– Power & Light District, Kansas City, MO.
– Power Plant Live!, Baltimore, MD.
– Texas Live!, Arlington, TX.
– Vivo!, Miami, FL.
– Waterside District, Norfolk, VA.
– Xfinity Live!, Philadelphia, PA.
These “mixed use” districts are what North Carolina lawmakers envisioned for Rockingham, Anson, and Nash counties. They’re areas that may include casinos but are always centered around entertainment offers, complete with restaurants and shopping spaces.
This is the vision that casino proponents in North Carolina’s General Assembly have for its rural counties. They’re hoping for commercial centers that can create jobs, attract tourists and boost the local economies.
The Cordish Companies would be a natural fit to develop these areas. Cordish would also benefit from the combined revenue of three casino or district developments in one state. It would be a portfolio item that could surpass its work in Missouri. Cordish should be expected to pursue that prize relentlessly.
North Carolina online sports betting role in PlayLive! plans
The interest in a North Carolina sports betting application doesn’t necessarily signal intent to launch an online sportsbook. Rather, it could be part of an exploratory probe to see what application requirements were in general for commercial gambling in North Carolina.
Online sports betting will be the state’s first foray into commercial gambling since greyhound racing was shut down in the 1950s. Learning the requirements for online sports betting could give the Cordish Companies insight into future development and license requirements.
While retail casinos are subject to different regulations from online sportsbooks, there are common areas of overlap. Financial audits, background investigations and license fees are common features of gambling license applications.
However, details like the depth of financial audits or the cost of licenses vary widely across states. The online sportsbook operator application is a glimpse at where North Carolina could fit among other states that regulate commercial gambling.
Casino legalization still has to make it through the General Assembly for any construction to begin. The Cordish Companies have already donated to at least nine North Carolina lawmakers to move legislation along.
If most of the state’s Republican Caucus comes around to new casinos, the Cordish Companies could launch a large project in a lucrative market.
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