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Big week for casinos ahead for General Assembly

February 21,2017

Source: Dave Williams, Atlanta Business Chronicle

This will be a pivotal week for the latest effort to legalize casino gambling in Georgia.

The state Senate is expected to begin work on a constitutional amendment calling for a statewide referendum on casinos. The constitutional change was introduced on Friday.

But more important, the most talked-about issue during this year's legislative session is due for its first vote. The Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee is expected to decide on Thursday whether to move an "enabling" bill accompanying the constitutional amendment to the Senate Rules Committee, which then would determine whether to send it to the floor for a vote.

The enabling bill contains the details of how casino gambling would work in Georgia. The legislation would limit the initial presence of casinos to two "destination resorts," a primary facility in metro Atlanta that would require an investment of at least $2 billion and a smaller project outside of the metro region but in an urban area with a population greater than 180,000.

To ensure a high-quality mixed-use development, the bill would require at least 60 percent of the resort's income to be derived from non-gambling sources, including shops, restaurants, a hotel and a performance venue.

If the statewide referendum passes, any city or county interested in hosting a casino resort would have to hold a local referendum before the project could become reality.