Georgia Legislators Likely To Reconsider Casinos

Georgia state Rep. Ron Stephens (l.) said he will introduce a bill that would change the state constitution to allow casino gambling and up to four casinos, including two in Atlanta, with revenue going to the HOPE scholarship fund. Last year he presented a similar but it died after House Speaker David Ralston postponed a vote.

Last year Georgia state Rep. Ron Stephens introduced HR 807, a constitutional amendment which would have legalized casino gambling and allowed up to four casinos in the state. The House Regulated Industries Committee supported the bill, but House Speaker David Ralston postponed a vote on the bill, effectively killing it for the session. Governor Nathan Deal also stated at the time that he did not believe casinos would “enhance the climate of the state.”

Recently Stephens said he plans to submit a similar bill during the legislative session which begins January 9. His original measure called for a minimum investment of $1.25 billion for one Atlanta-area casino and $750 million for another in Atlanta, plus a $400 million investment for the final two statewide licenses.

Legislators estimate the four resorts would generate $250 million dollars in tax revenue and create 10,000 jobs. Supporters also said casino gambling could solve the increasing demand for HOPE scholarships. However, House Democrats–whose votes are necessary to reach the required margin for constitutional amendments–said they want casino tax revenue to go to a new program that provides needs-based aid to fund higher education costs.

To date nearly 50 lobbyists have registered on the behalf of several casino operators, including Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts. The companies previously had scouted the Atlanta area for potential casino locations.

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