While legalizing casino gambling may be popular in Raleigh, the people of western Rockingham County are making it clear they don’t want a casino in their county.

Monday, Aug. 1, opponents of building a casino along US 220 in Rockingham County just north of Stokesdale and Summerfield filled the Ellisboro Baptist Church, not far from the 192-acre site that is up for rezoning this month.

The church holds a little over 400 people, and the event held by the Concerned Citizens for Western Rockingham County attracted a standing-room-only crowd of people most wearing buttons that read, “NO Casino: Keep Our Community Great.”

While no official announcement has been made, the handwriting is on the wall as far as the proposed casino goes.  The Rockingham County zoning ordinance was amended in June to make “electronic gaming operations” a permitted use in the Highway Commercial zoning district.

On the agenda for the Monday, Aug. 21 meeting of the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners is a request to rezone the 192-acre site along US 220 from Residential Agricultural to Highway Commercial. The rezoning request is being made by NC Development Holdings, which has the same address as The Cordish Companies, which, according to its website, is “a leading developer and operator of gaming and hospitality projects.”

Many of the speakers at the Ellisboro Baptist Church complained of the lack of transparency in the project and about the fact that the community was not given a voice.

Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page was the only elected official who spoke at the meeting, and he said, “I just heard about this four weeks ago.”

Page said, “Nothing good will come from establishing casinos in Rockingham County or in the state.”

He said, “Let the people of Rockingham County and of North Carolina make the decision with a referendum.”

Page added, “I oppose what is going on and I oppose casinos here in Rockingham County.”

Former Sixth District Congressman Mark Walker, who is an announced candidate for governor, ran the meeting, and to his credit, he didn’t once mention that he was running for governor.

Many of the speakers noted that the casino would bring crime, drugs and prostitution to the area and destroy the rural agricultural way of life that the residents now enjoyed.

One speaker said, “They are coming here because we are only 15 miles from the airport. But we’re not Las Vegas and we don’t want to be Las Vegas.”

The proposed casino site is adjacent to Camp Carefree, a camp for children with chronic diseases, and a number of speakers noted that placing a casino complex with the accompanying hotels, restaurants and bars next to a camp for children with chronic diseases and disabilities was just wrong.

Several speakers said that legalizing casinos in the state was a “done deal” in Raleigh, and opponents should concentrate on contacting their county commissioners to defeat the rezoning request.