Casinos Considered Again in Georgia?

by Kyle Miller

GeorgiaIt seems casinos are set to be considered again in the state of Georgia.

Time and time again, any efforts to see casino gaming come to the state of Georgia have proved fruitless. Last year, efforts were renewed to see casinos finally constructed in the state, only to see the subject dry up yet again. It seems effort may be renewed in 2018 as the new 40-day legislation session is to begin next week.

Let’s Try Again

Reportedly, after last year’s efforts, lawmakers in the state are ready to begin discussions once again. Over the past few years, casino gaming in the state has continued to see opponents, so any legislation has essentially died away. Lawmakers will have to work extra hard to gain support and show the citizens of the state what the gaming options can provide.

In the past, legislation has stated that as many as two to six casinos should be constructed across the state. The most recent effort for casino legislation was made by Senator Brandon Beach. The Senator introduced SB 79 last year, calling for casino gambling to be legalized in the state and two destination casinos to be constructed.

The bill was introduced early last year and soon died within its first Senate Committee vote. The bill would have seen a casino resort created in the Atlanta area, with a minimum of $2 billion invested. The second casino would have been created in another area of the state and requires a minimum of $450 million investment. With the bill failing so quickly, one would think that the Senator would be discouraged. However, he quickly stated that he would relaunch his efforts in 2018 and that time has now come.

How Could the State Benefit?

Those in favor of casino gambling coming to the region have stated that Georgia is losing tax money to neighboring states as gamblers are traveling to other areas to play slots and table games. Proponents would also like to see the HOPE Scholarship fund helped by casino gaming revenues. The program provides scholarships to students and desperately needs funds, more than what the state lottery can provide. With casino gaming in the mix, more money would be made available for the education of children in the state.

Opponents are worried about the side effects of what they feel gambling will bring. Those opposed feel that crime rates will increase, and other social problems will begin. Arguing against this point, proponents feel that destination resorts, as suggested in Beach’s legislation, would cost millions or billions to create, and would not provide such a negative outcome as suggested.

Interestingly enough, despite the fact that legislation has failed to move forward, major casino operators are still ready to move in to the state if/when casino gaming becomes a reality. MGM Resorts International has stated they are interest in building a resort in Atlanta and have remained active supporters pushing for gambling to expand in the state.

A poll was conducted last year to see the voter’s feelings on the matter and surprisingly, more than half of those polled stated they were in favor of seeing casino gambling legalized. In Georgia, a change to the casino industry requires voter approval. A statewide referendum would have to be added to the ballot and voters approve it before a change could be made to the constitution to add more gambling options in the state.

For now, it seems that voters would say Yes if a referendum were brought to the ballot. It will be interesting to watch over the coming weeks if any legislation is brought forth and able to move forward regarding casino legalization in the state.