Elections watchdog files complaint targeting big video poker campaign contributions

By: - May 31, 2023 2:25 pm
The entrance to the State Board of Elections

Elections watchdog Bob hall filed a complaint Tuesday alleging violations of state law by members of the video poker industry. (File photo)

Six prominent GOP lawmakers identified as having received “bundled” donations

Veteran North Carolina elections watchdog Bob Hall filed a detailed complaint on Tuesday with the State Board of Elections alleging campaign finance malfeasance by members of the video poker industry.

The following is from the complaint:

“Based on the information below, I am asking the State Board of Elections to investigate campaign finance violations related to the eye-popping $885,000 that donors in the video poker industry gave to North Carolina candidates and party committees in 2019-2022. Compared to any other four-year period, that is a record amount from video poker operators in this politically active yet scandal-plagued industry, and it coincides with the industry’s beefed-up effort to gain legitimacy through unsuccessful NC legislation in 2021 and the current, controversial HB-512.  

For comparison, $885,000 exceeds the combined total of all the contributions that the PACs of Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and the NC Automobile Dealers Association handed out to North Carolina politicians and party committees in the same four-year period.  

Among other issues, this complaint alleges that members and firms affiliated with the NC Coin Operators Association conspired to deliver unprecedented sums to key state legislators in a coordinated manner that (1) apparently violated their obligation to form a political committee and (2) circumvented the contribution limits and reporting requirements imposed on a PAC.” (Emphasis in the original).

Bob Hall headshot
Bob Hall

Hall’s complaint points out that state law requires individuals making coordinated campaign contributions of the kind detailed in the complaint to form a political action committee — a step that would bring about reporting requirements and place limits on the size of contributions.

This is from the complaint:

“By not forming a political committee (PAC), this group of operators avoided registering and disclosing their fundraising activity, and also avoided the limits on when and how much a PAC may give a legislator. I note that many of these individuals were leaders of the NC Amusement Machine Association PAC and its earlier lobbying efforts, before that PAC disbanded in 2008. They know the rules. The NC Coin Operators Association (NCCOA) began in 2019 when the industry launched a new push to pass legislation that would provide legitimacy and growth.”


Hall’s complaint also includes a detailed spreadsheet of more than 500 donations made to North Carolina political candidates in recent years from individuals he identifies as members of the video poker industry, including more than 50 provided last fall to six powerful Republican lawmakers: House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, Senator Bil Rabon, and Representatives John Bell, Destin Hall and Jason Saine.

“Based on the evidence in this complaint, it appears that NCCOA leaders and/or their agents collected and bundled together checks from video poker donors across the state and on multiple occasions delivered the contributions as a package to legislators,” Hall wrote in the complaint. “Each bundle totaled well over the $5,600 contribution limit that a PAC could give to a legislative candidate in the 2022 general election,” the complaint reads.

The complaint concludes by calling on the elections board to conduct “a rigorous investigation of its campaign finance practices, including those described above, that may violate state law.”

At press time, the North Carolina Coin Operators Association had not responded to voice and email messages from NC Newsline seeking comment on the complaint.

Click here to read the complaint and here to view the spreadsheet of identified contributions.

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Rob Schofield
Rob Schofield

NC Newsline Editor Rob Schofield oversees day-to-day newsroom operations, authors and voices regular commentaries, and hosts the 'News & Views' weekly radio show/podcast.