And it is a game changer for the future of Georgia.
Today’s gaming venues are “not your father’s casinos,” to paraphrase the Oldsmobile commercial.
Unfortunately, long held beliefs about the negative impact of legalized gambling and gaming, have prevented the state of Georgia from passing a constitutional amendment allowing commercial casino-based gaming in the state.
Currently, legal gambling in Georgia consists of the Georgia Lottery and associated video gambling. The Georgia Lottery was created to fund the HOPE Scholarship, which funds college tuition for qualifying students along with pre-k classes. The program celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, although recent surveys have predicted that the program could run out of funds by 2028. And Georgia is one of only six states that does not have legal gambling outside of a lottery.
Although legalized casino gambling legislation has failed to pass in recent years, the tide may be turning. Republican state Rep. Ron Stephens, who’s credited with growing Georgia’s booming TV and movie production industry through generous tax cuts, is proposing new legislation for the 2019- 2020 legislative session, supporting the licensing of three multi-billion-dollar gaming and entertainment resorts for in-state operations.
Under the proposal, each operator would have to commit to creating at least 10,000 jobs and investing a minimum of $1.2 billion.
It’s estimated that as much as $670 million is spent annually by Georgians traveling to casinos in nearby states, such as Florida, Mississippi and to the two Cherokee casinos in North Carolina. Gamers in Georgia can even board a cruise ship in Brunswick, the Emerald Princess II, and spend the evening at sea participating in legal gambling.