Georgia’s Latest Hopes for Legalized Gambling and Sports Betting
Georgia State Representative Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) wants to bring casinos to Georgia next year, and he thinks the residents want them, too. He has a goal to launch three multi-billion-dollar integrated casino resorts within the Peach State, and plans to present a bill at the upcoming legislative session that will bring forward a vote to state residents to amend the constitution to legalize casino gambling.
State Senator Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) has introduced an almost identical bill with hopes to authorize two casinos in Georgia: one in a smaller city like Columbus or Savannah, and one in the metro Atlanta area. The scaled-down proposition might have a better chance with fewer casinos.
If either of the bills are successful, up to 5,000 jobs would be created in Atlanta alone, and thousands more in the secondary market. It would benefit job creation and tourism, and the resulting cash flow could be directed into education and other areas.
The bill would set tax at 20 percent of casino gambling revenues. Thirty percent of those funds would go to a needs-based college scholarship and the rest would go to the HOPE scholarship and Georgia’s pre-Kindergarten program.
Last year the Atlanta Journal-Constitution conducted a poll that showed over 50 percent (56%) of potential voters would support legalizing casinos. Since voters narrowly authorized the letter in 1992, the public’s resistance to legal gambling in the state has slowly been subsiding, and if put to the ballot again, legal gambling would most likely pass.
Georgians and Gambling
It’s estimated that Georgians spent roughly $670 million dollars at casinos in nearby states, which means a local casino sector would have a huge potential market with estimates of at least $2.5 billion dollars. And, that doesn’t even include revenue generated from tourism.
One of only nine states in the United States without any commercial or tribal casinos, Georgia legislators have been talking about legalizing gambling for years. Rep. Stephens has tried several times to gather support for different bills supporting casinos, but to date hasn’t had much success. He feels this time might be the winner, and says that the Georgia casinos he has planned will be something special. In an article by Casino.org, Stephens made the following comments:
“They’re going to be incredibly unique [in the state], will be nothing different than someone going to Disney World, but I want to see that in Georgia. It’s entertainment, the whole thing is entertainment.”
As of right now, the only way for sports bettors to gamble is online. It’s not illegal to play at online casinos or sportsbooks, and this is the best way to do it right now without traveling to an out-of-state casino or illegal bookmaker. There’s actually no laws in Georgia that deal with sports betting. There are no laws for online gambling at all, because there’s no language in state laws that address Internet gambling.
The closest places to gamble legally for residents of Georgia are North Carolina or Alabama, both of which have legal casinos. No nearby states offer legal sports betting; for that, Georgia residents would have to travel to Mississippi or Delaware. South Carolina has introduced sports betting to state legislation, but it hasn’t passed as of yet.
Staunch Republican Governor Nathan Deal is leaving at the end of this year, but the Republican hopeful to replace him, Brian Kemp, is also against any casino bill that makes it to his desk. In an October 2017 article from Casino.org, all four of the Georgia GOP said they would resist efforts to bring legal gambling to Georgia. Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, former State Senator Hunter Hill, State Senator Michael Williams, and current Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Governor hopeful, said they would veto any bill allowing legal gambling in the Peach State.
The Democratic candidate, Stacey Abrams, says she’ll support casinos. We guess only time will tell the likelihood of Georgia getting legal sports betting and casino gambling based on who wins the race for Governor.
There are a lot of naysayers in the state, including church groups. Dave Baker, the executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition of Georgia made the following anti-casino comments:
“Casinos are a net loss for the state. They bring addiction, bankruptcy, and crime. That includes human trafficking. And we work to fight so many of these things in so many other bills to bring casinos to the state is just moving completely in the wrong direction.”
Even if a gambling-positive Governor takes the position, Stephens’ bill still has a long way to go before it can land on the Governor’s desk for approval in 2019. First, a whole bunch of anti-casino republicans would have to be converted to seeing the benefits of a casino sector. If by chance it went to a public referendum with the November 2018 vote, it would need two-thirds of the vote to pass. Right now, it’s not likely to succeed. That means the Georgians will be without sports betting and gambling for the foreseeable future.
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