In the wake of the increasing popularity of online casinos and casino slots, many in Georgia have been pressing to legalize casino gambling in the state.
This effort has been ongoing for years, and legislation has even been introduced in the state legislature. But as it is currently stalled, gambling lobbyists and other supporters of legalized gambling are instead pushing a bill in the legislature that would allow citizens of the state to decide whether casinos and casino slots should be legal. Furthermore, polls in the state indicate that people support this.
Currently, all the state’s top officials are opposed to letting casinos operate in the state. This includes Republican Governor Nathan Deal, his fellow Republican Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, and Republican House Speaker David Ralston. What’s more, the state’s Republican committee recently voted against both casino gambling and horse racing.
However, casino developers remain undeterred. Alan M. Feldman, who works for MGM Resorts International as the Executive Vice President of Global Corporate Communications and Industry affairs, says that politicians will eventually have to accept the reality of the situation, and this is that people in Georgia already gamble quite a bit at casinos. They do this in Alabama and they do it in North Carolina, and tax revenue generated from this is not benefiting Georgia. Instead, it is flowing from Georgia to out of the state.
Gaming interests in the state have spent lots of money in recent years to try to sway legislators to their side. A few years ago, they gave in excess of 200,000 to various state legislators. Additionally, in spite of Lt. Gov. Cagle’s opposition to casino gambling, they actually were responsible for one of his fundraisers in 2015. Since then, though, the flow of money has slowed somewhat. But it has not stopped.
Ron Stephens, who is a Republican legislator from Savannah and the chairman of the House Economic Development and Tourism, is a supporter of the bill that would let people in the state vote on whether casinos should be legal. He says that it is difficult for legislators to tackle controversial bills in an election year, but he also said that he will try to do everything he can to get the bill passed.
Those who support casino gambling in the state insist that it will not only create lots of jobs but that it will also add millions of dollars to educational programs that include the HOPE scholarship, which is right now in need of propping up. However, many conservative and faith-based organizations remain firmly against any movement toward casino gambling in the state.
Virginia Galloway, who works for the for the Faith and Freedom Coalition of Georgia as a lobbyist, opposes the legislation, and she plans to keep a close watch on its progress. She says that a state as good as Georgia does not need the problems associated with gambling, which she says includes crime and bankruptcy. She especially does not want to see such things in Atlanta, but she also does not want to see it anywhere else in the state, either.
Rep. Stephens, though, disagrees. He says that casinos will not attract the kind of crime that people like Galloway insist it will. He further says that the state has allowed gambling for 25 years, in the form of a lottery, and that the proposed casinos will be destination resorts that will offer far more than just gambling.