The state of Georgia seems to be mulling the idea of allowing individual counties to decide whether or not they wish to introduce casino gambling. Similar to plans discussed for the past two years running, lawmakers propose that individual counties vote in a ballot initiative next year to amend the state referendum on gambling. Counties will have the right to decide if they want land based gaming casinos in their jurisdictions, similar to the Alcohol Bill introduced in 2011. The idea is that each zone will receive the right to one casino (and Atlanta Metro two casinos), and residents will be able to vote yay or nay in the referendum.
A similar measure was introduced during the last session, with the state divided into five different zones. Casino developers would be required to apply for one of the regions, with the right to apply in another zone if they lost their initial license application for whatever reason.
As with all legislation dealing with a subject as controversial as gambling, there are fierce opponents to the idea as well. Rep. Randy Rux from LaGrange, is one of many Republicans who will fight against the ballot initiative. He recently told the local media that he feared that new casinos could cannibalize local businesses who already offer entertainment activities.
“If you want to see what casino gaming can do for a local economy, go to Wetumpka, Ala., and find out how many restaurants are no longer there,” he said. “Find out how many events that have entertainments are no longer there. It’s all going right in that one place.”
On the other hand, proponents cite several good reasons to bring casino gambling to Georgia, including the fact that it could greatly expand the HOPE scholarship fund. The fund is already well funded by the Georgia Lottery, which donates 23% of its revenues to education. There is no doubt, however, that the HOPE Fund will benefit greatly from the revenue from land casinos.
In addition, proponents argue that a casino in Atlanta would attract players from all over the region, not just from within the state.
“How much of a natural table gaming, slot machine market is there in Georgia for people who aren’t buying scratch off lottery tickets or power ball or what have you? “ asked casino supporter, Rep. Josh McKoon.