Shift in Momentum for Georgia Casino Gambling Bill

by Kyle Miller

GeorgiaA committee vote has been canceled on a casino gambling bill in Georgia, leaving proponents in a state of limbo.

For some time now, the state of Georgia has been considering offering casino gambling. Legislation has been crafted and considered by lawmakers, with a committee vote having been scheduled for today to discuss Senate Bill 79. However, this vote was cancelled and proponents of casino gaming in the state are left wondering if there is a future in the state for the gaming industry.

Sudden Change

Georgia is known as a conservative state and one that only offers lottery gaming. Gaming has been discussed before but the momentum really gained way last year and into 2017 as lawmakers looked at legitimate ways to provide casino gaming in the state. Senator Brandon Beach crafted Senate Bill 79 which would see the development of two casinos in the state and was supposed to be up for a committee vote in the Senate today.

The vote was cancelled, with Senator Rick Jeffares notifying Senate Regulated Industries Committee members late yesterday that the 1pm meeting would not happen. According to Beach, the meeting was indeed cancelled and the hearing on the measure could be rescheduled for this coming Monday.

However, according to AJC.com, another member of the committee stated that Jeffares asked the members of the committee on Wednesday about the bill and reportedly received opposition that was overwhelming which lead to the hearing being cancelled. The member of the committee asked not to be identified in the article.

What’s at Stake?

Beach has been working on Senate Bill 79 for some time now to see a casino created in an area near Atlanta and a convention center along with one located in an urban area. Beach set perimeters for the Atlanta location to see an investment of at minimum $2 billion while the other casino would have a much lower investment requirement.

The gaming venues must also focus on alternative revenue streams of the non-gambling variety. A new trend has emerged in the gaming industry as casinos are beginning to provide alternative means of entertainment to bring in revenues aside from gaming. The younger crowd, the millennial generation, does not seem to be focused on casino gambling as the older generations. Alternative means of entertainment such as dining, shows and concerts are on offer to bring in visitors of different age groups. The new casinos must focus the bulk of their entertainment on non-gaming essentials.

As far as requirements are concerned, the casinos will have to pay taxes with 20% of the full revenues from the year required. 30% of this amount will go towards the HOPE Scholarship program of the state that is currently funded from revenues of the state lottery. Another percentage of the taxes paid will go towards rural areas of the state to assist with healthcare as well as trauma care.

Beach certainly has his ducks in a row so to speak when it comes to the measure. All areas have been covered from licensing requirements to taxes and how the revenues will be spent. Now it is up to lawmakers to see the bill for what it is and decide if this is how they wish to proceed when it comes to casino gaming.

As of this morning, Beach has more work to do if he wants to see his proposal become law. The Senator basically has until next Friday to see his bill move forward as this is known as Crossover Day. In the General Assembly, this is the last day that a measure has the ability to cross from one chamber to another without any specific maneuvers needed in government.