CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — As the General Assembly meets back up for its 2023 session, gambling is one of its top agenda items. A significant sports betting bill failed last session, but experts said there is a good chance of it passing now.

But something else is catching the eye, and it could mean more than a wager on a game.

“I’m sure there’s been conversations about how to get things through,” said Max Bichsel with Charlotte-based Group. They are a gambling resource and are not associated with any effort to get gambling fully legalized in the state.

However, Bichsel said that his organization has been watching the action in Raleigh on the gaming front. He noted that sports betting is a good bet.

But lawmakers’ attention could be on a three-year-old project that has recently been getting more attention. In 2020, Spectrum Gaming, a consulting firm that the North Carolina Education Lottery had hired, released a report about the future of gambling in the state.

The report found that North Carolina could handle as many as nine casinos, with three in the Charlotte area alone. That estimate comes from the number of people within a 50-mile radius.

Catawba Two Kings, pictured, and Harrah’s Cherokee are the state’s two casino operations.

The report tabbed Asheville, the Triad, the Triangle, Pinehurst, and Wilmington areas as possible sites should the state pursue further commercial gaming opportunities outside of the casinos that were in place at the time in western North Carolina, operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

The report did not account for recent legalized gambling operations in other states and the Catawba Two Kings Casino in Kings Mountain.

However, Queen City News has learned that an update to that report will come out soon, accounting for the changes.

Bichsel is aware of the previous calls for more casinos and thinks that nine may be too much for the state, but the possibility of another casino operation coming to Charlotte is more likely.

“Within the next five years? Probably,” said Bichsel.

Bichsel said the one key sign of the future of North Carolina gaming and gambling would be in how serious state lawmakers will take the conversation of a regulatory body for those activities.

Queen City News did reach out to the consultants behind the project. In a statement, a spokesperson said, “Due to a different, current engagement in North Carolina, we are declining comment at this time.”