RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — As Republican legislative leaders consider legalizing additional casinos, new polling shows opposition from a majority of Republican primary voters, especially if expanded gaming is incorporated into the state budget.

About 53 percent of likely GOP primary voters said they oppose efforts to expand gambling compared to 33 percent who support that, according to a poll released this week by Republican political consultant Andy Yates.

When those voters were asked whether they would support the idea if legislative leaders “were trying to force the legislation into the state budget to minimize opposition,” 74 percent said they would oppose expanded gaming in that case.

Yates said some of his clients, who he did not name, are “worried about the fallout with primary voters.”

As Republican legislative leaders continue to meet to try to reach an agreement on the broader state budget, they’ve said it’s possible they could include gaming in that.

The budget will be voted on as a conference report, which means no amendments would be allowed and it would be approved all-or-nothing.

Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), who has supported the idea of legalizing additional casinos, says he believes there’s a path for including that in the state budget. Critics of that idea believe it should be voted on as a separate matter and go through the typical committee process that allows for amendments and public input.

Berger has called attention to the fact that Virginia has recently legalized four casinos, including one that just opened in Danville, which is near Berger’s home in Rockingham County and is drawing a significant amount of business from North Carolina residents.

While no finalized legislation in North Carolina has been released, Republican leaders have discussed the idea of authorizing four “entertainment districts” in the state that would include casinos and variety of other amenities, such as hotels and restaurants.

They view it as an opportunity to spur economic development in distressed areas. The potential locations include Anson, Nash, and Rockingham counties as well as a fourth site on Lumbee tribal land.

Lawmakers also could legalize video lottery terminals in places like bars and restaurants across the state as part of that legislation.

Mitch Kokai, senior political analyst at the conservative John Locke Foundation, said he expects the issue to be significant in primary elections next year.

“This is going to be an interesting issue as the budget moves forward to see just how much of a division it creates within the Republican base,” he said. “It is still veiled in some secrecy. There have just been hints about what’s happening and how the final deal will take place.”

In Rockingham County, a company tied to a casino developer has requested to rezone land near Camp Carefree, which hosts children with chronic illnesses and disabilities. County commissioners will consider the rezoning request on Aug. 21.

Republican Mark Walker, a former U.S. congressman who is running for governor, has focused on the issue, calling for greater transparency from Republican lawmakers about their plans.

“It blew me away to see how close that this proposed site would be, literally across the street from a camp that serves and ministers kids with disabilities,” Walker said at a recent community meeting.

Walker is among several candidates seeking the GOP nomination in next year’s gubernatorial election. Current Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson has been dominating the field both in terms of polling and fundraising.

A spokesperson for Robinson did not respond to requests for comment this week about what his position is on the potential gaming legislation.

Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page, who is running for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor in a crowded field, also has been vocal about the issue, urging people to contact their elected representatives about it.

“They all have to find something that is going to motivate voters. And, I think Mark Walker and the people working with him see this as an issue that could draw people to him,” said Mitch Kokai. “If you’re interested in good government and transparency you would like to see a lot more opportunities for input before something is finally decided.”

In an interview this week, N.C. Attorney Gen. Josh Stein, who is the only Democratic candidate for governor, also weighed in on the potential gaming legislation. He was critical of Republican lawmakers for being late on passing a state budget.

“I’m very concerned about an economic development strategy that is about preying on people’s desire to gamble,” said Stein. “I definitely am concerned about the video lottery. I’d have to see what a bill would look like as it relates to the gambling establishments, the casinos. I just don’t even know. They haven’t shared (with) anybody the language. And, I can’t really speak until I see what the language actually says.”