The Summerfield Town Council heard an interesting speaker from the floor the other night when it held its Tuesday, Aug. 8 meeting, where the subject of a proposed casino in Rockingham County came up – despite the casino item not being on the council’s agenda.
The speaker was the man who would have to clean up any additional crime if a new casino was built just north of the Guilford County line – longtime Rockingham County Sheriff’s Sam Page.
The sheriff spoke at the start of the meeting and made it clear in no uncertain terms where he stood on the effort to bring legalized gambling to Rockingham County.
While Summerfield isn’t in Rockingham County, the residents of the town have been keenly focused on the project since the proposed site is less than 10 miles away, and there’s a belief among many of them that the gambling establishment would increase crime in Summerfield.
At the meeting Page said he favored allowing the people of Rockingham County to decide the matter rather than solely the elected leaders in that county and in the North Carolina General Assembly.
He said that quite frankly he was surprised the discussion had already gotten this far.
He added that he had been a criminal investigator for years and a sheriff for 25 years and, given the way the casino discussion has proceeded, he feels as though the talks have been going on behind closed doors long before the public was made aware of the proposal.
Page said the people had a right to weigh in on a change that could have such a major impact on their lives.
“Let the people of North Carolina decide,” Page told the Summerfield Town Council, which later that night adopted a resolution calling for just that.
There’s a broad consensus – based on Rockingham County citizen reaction to the casino proposal – that a ballot referendum granting permission to build the establishment would fail.
Page said that given the “slippery slope” of gambling that the state is already on – the Education Lottery, a move toward legalizing sports betting and now the potential proliferation of casinos – he wonders what the state will look like in the future.
The sheriff quoted a columnist who wrote that more opportunities to gamble would lead to more gambling – and that would lead to more social problems associated with gambling.
Page said that competition for gaming revenue from other states shouldn’t be the issue: “Just because other places have made poor choices does not mean that North Carolina should do the same.”
He said that his department has already spent over two decades fighting the fallout from video gaming in the community.
While a great many people are worried about the casino, at least one longtime former Guilford County law enforcement official is not overly concerned about the casino being built. Former Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes, who is also the former mayor of Summerfield, told the Rhino Times that he believes Rockingham County would find the problems that might arise manageable and, Barnes added, that casinos can be fun.
“I actually like casinos – when I’m winning,” he said.