MGM Resorts Vying for Georgia Casino

Jim Murren

While the state of Georgia does not currently have legalized casino gaming, MGM Resorts sill showing interest in offering gaming in the state.

Georgia is one of just a few states in the US that does not offer legalized gaming options, other than the lottery. However, it seems the state may be close to passing legislation that would allow casinos to be created in the future. Support for land based gaming has slowly been building and last week, MGM Resorts pitched an idea for a casino to be created in the Atlanta area.

Pitching Their Idea

Jim MurrenMGM Resorts sent CEO and Chairman Jim Murren to Atlanta to discuss plans for a casino with the Rotary Club of Atlanta. Murren has ideas to create a billion dollar resort style casino in the big city. The big reason that talk has ramped up about casino gaming in Georgia is that money earned could help the HOPE Scholarship fund as well as pre-K programs for the public. These programs are funded by the state lottery right now and the programs are so popular, more money is needed to keep up with the demand.

With HOPE Scholarships, students are able to attend in-state schools via tuition. Students are required to have a 3.0 grade point average or higher during high school and continue to do well academically in college to remain qualified for the scholarship. To be able to preserve funds in the program, books and fees were stopped in 2011 from being part of the program and last year, new academic standards were put in place which made it more difficult for students to earn the rewards.

Legislation Introduced

In 2015, two bills were introduced that would have allowed casino gambling in the state, authorizing the construction of as many as six casinos. Taxes would have been set at 12% on gross gaming and this amount would have been directed to the HOPE fund. However, the bills made it to the House this year where they died.

Currently, there are no bills on the table but with interest from MGM and support ramping up, if legislation were created, it might make more headway. It seems MGM does not want to give up their efforts to be involved if the state were to move forward.

MGM’s Plans

The idea of the resort style casino by MGM in the past included a hotel for overnight guests, restaurants, concert hall and shopping. This most recent pitched plan saw Murren explaining that based on research, his company has found that citizens in the state have spent as much as $600 million visiting casinos in other states. This money would obviously help the state if kept in the borders.

Because of the appealing market, Murren stated that MGM would be willing to spend as much as $1.4 billion on the Atlanta casino project. The property should be able to create 4,000 employment positions in the process. However, local business execs are skeptical of the plan. These individuals are worried that the property would harm their businesses.

A study was conducted via a commission by Central Atlanta Progress which found that a casino would cannibalize businesses in the city. It is believed that entertainment money would go from the already established businesses to the new venue. Such businesses as Fox Theater have suggested that perhaps MGM would protect these venues by paying to have musical acts that would normally perform at the venue. According to Murren, his company would be an ally to such companies and not an advisory.

Overall, MGM is interested but no legislation exists to see plans come to fruition as of yet. However, the company is a big name in gaming and it would be surprising to see the brand picked as an operator if legislation were ever to be passed that would see casino gaming legalized and regulated in the state.