February 5, 2014

Commissioner says slot machines on ferries
would raise more money than tolls


Hyde County commissioner John Fletcher thinks the N.C. Department of Transportation should look into installing slot machines on the long-haul ferries to help with the revenue crunch.

He proposed this idea Feb. 3 at the monthly meeting of the Hyde County Board of Commissioners. Fletcher is the Ocracoke representative.

“The money that it takes to run those ferries is considerable,” he said. “To get legalized slot machines would take a while, but gambling would generate revenue and more traffic on the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter ferries.”

A proponent of less government, Fletcher continued that the residents are stuck on Ocracoke with the state and federal government wanting more and more fees from them.

“We can stay like we are or go do something different,” he said. “I’ve been on international ferries that have slot machines and they generate a lot of money.”

Fletcher’s suggestion was met tentatively by the other commissioners.

“We’ll think about it,” said Barry Swindell, chairman of the board, who, along with Earl Pugh Jr., was in the Hyde County services building in Swan Quarter. The other commissioner, Dick Tunnell, was with Fletcher  in the Ocracoke School Commons Room, where the monthly meetings are televised via Internet hook-up.

Fletcher further explained that the two new, large ferries that make the Pamlico Sound crossing would be ripe for this project.

“All those lounge chairs could be taken out and slot machines put in,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher noted that it would be a big undertaking for the state to implement this idea as it would require lots of controls on money and who could play the machines.

“But it would bring tourists year-round to this area,” he said.

“This would take a legislative law to even allow that,” said Timothy Hass, spokesman for the N.C. Ferry Division.

Las Vegas-style gambling is allowed in the state only on the properties of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina, but citizens have access to gambling with the state lottery.

“Public policy in North Carolina used to be against gaming,” Fletcher said. “Then the state got into the gaming business with the lottery. So, they can’t be holier than thou (with this idea.)”

Fletcher didn’t know what the next step would be to float this idea, but he said he would talk to state Rep. Paul Tine about it.

“If you don’t start something, you don’t get it done,” Fletcher said.


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