The 2020 legislative session is just getting underway, but there’s already indication than an effort to legalize gambling may have folded.
With study committees looking at legalized gambling in both the House and Senate during the off-session, some members like Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Macon) were hopeful voters would finally get a say on bringing casinos and horse racing to the state.
“Whether you’re for it or against it, giving the people the right to vote I think is a very responsible position for any legislator to be in,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.
The Senate committee, which met throughout the summer and fall, failed to vote on a recommendation saying its members couldn’t reach a consensus. They instead simply voted to authorize a report of the information they gathered.
On the first day of the session, Republican leaders in the Senate, including Majority Leader Mike Dugan (R-Carrollton), say it’s not a priority this year.
“It’s a contentious subject amongst the entire state. You have great passion for and against. And honestly, we don’t have a consistent evaluation on what the return would be for those,” he says.
Lt. Gov. Jeff Duncan agreed.
“I just haven’t seen that overwhelming push for gambling here in the state of Georgia. I certainly haven’t heard it as I’ve traveled around the state,” he says.
A House committee looking at the economic impact of allowing casinos, horse racing and sports betting believes casinos alone would create an estimated 5,000 jobs at each venue with several across the state.
If the Constitutional Amendment successfully makes its way through two-thirds of the House and Senate, it would likely go before voters in November. But even Smyre says the state statue, that would have to accompany it and include the details of the where, who, and how, would still have to be worked out.
“When you start talking about designation resorts, you have to kind of bring in the formula where are they going to be held, how are they going to be taxed and where will the tax revenues go. Those three things I consider a three-legged stool. And without one of those, the stool will not stand,” he says.
Chairs of the special House committee looking at it, indicate the money should be split between the HOPE Scholarship and shoring up rural hospitals.