A bill that could bring casinos to Georgia gets its first hearing before a packed Senate committee.
The measure by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) would allow for two “destination resorts” that would include 40 percent of gaming and 60 percent entertainment. One would be located in metro Atlanta with the other in a secondary city with a population of at least 180,000.
“We’re looking at a minimum of a $2.45 billion investment that will create somewhere in the vicinity of 7,500 permanent jobs. That’s not even counting the construction jobs,” says Beach.
Fifty percent of the proceeds would go to fund the HOPE Scholarship, 30 percent for a new needs-based scholarship, and the remaining 20 percent for rural hospitals in the state.
With just a little more than an hour allowed for testimony, few were able to speak during the hearing. But Mike Griffin with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board told Senators its placing money over morality.
“The fact that we’re using all of these ornaments now being placed on the Christmas tree, it’s almost like 30 pieces of silver to everybody to buy them off so they’ll get into this,” he says.
Griffin is also concerned there will be a rise in child sex trafficking if more gambling is allowed in Georgia.
The horse racing industry also complained during the hearing that pari-mutuel betting was left out this year.
“While the horse racing coalition recognizes that our industry alone does not meet the threshold of a mega-casino in downtown Atlanta, we do know, based on our research from other states, the economic impact on rural and agricultural areas of Georgia will be proportionately more significant than a mega-casino in Atlanta,” says Dean Reeves, president of the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition.
The committee plans to hold at least one more hearing on the bill. A similar measure is also in the House.