Gaming Lobbyists Continue To Push For Casinos In Georgia

January 5, 2018 by Ella McDonald

It has been years since gaming lobbyists started pushing gaming legislation to allow casinos in Georgia but they have not had a lot of success and faced many setbacks. However, gaming lobbyists are not losing hope and are once again preparing for a push in 2018. More than a dozen gaming lobbyists have already signed up for the 2018 legislative session which starts next week and runs for 40 days.

Legislators have been spent the previous years creating regulations that will allow developers to start building destination resorts in the state of Georgia. Last year, Sen. Brandon Beach introduced SB 79 (Destination Resort Act), which seeks to license up to two destination resorts in Georgia and would create a gaming regulatory body called the Georgia Gaming Commission.

During the sessions that debated SB 79, supporters argued that the citizens have always been gambling, regardless of the state policies that prohibit the development of casinos in the state. There have been a number of major casino operators including MGM Resorts who are eager to invest billions into developing a casino resort in the state.

In a statement, Alan M. Feldman, executive vice president of global corporate communications for MGM Resorts International said

As the conversation continues, it’s important to consider the reality at hand: Georgians are already gambling at casinos in North Carolina and Alabama, and the tax revenue from that activity is not supporting much-needed programs in Georgia but instead is flowing from local communities to neighboring states

MGM Resorts is one of the major casino developers that have expressed their desire to continue supporting the bill, even though it might take years for legislation to go through. They are planning to construct a $2-billion destination resort in Atlanta and have been supporting gaming lobbies for the cause.

According to Georgia’s constitution, any move to allow US casino expansion can only go through via a statewide referendum. But it’s not the citizens stopping the bill from seeing the light of day. In 2017, a poll showed that the majority of Georgia voters (69 percent) are in favour of casino gambling in the state. Major opposition to the bill comes from the state’s top Republican leaders: House Speaker David Ralston, Gov. Nathan Deal, and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

The Georgia GOP struck down SB 79 in August 2017 citing concerns that gambling is a predatory activity that could ruin lives and generate more crimes. It remains to be seen what changes gaming legislators will make in 2018 to ensure that their gambling push gets more
support.