Casinos bill dead for 2017

February 27,2017

Source: Dave Williams, Atlanta Business Chronicle

An effort to legalize casino gambling in Georgia is dead for this year.

State Sen. Brandon Beach, the chief sponsor of legislation calling for a statewide referendum on casinos, said Monday he didn't have the votes to get it through the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee, which had been due to consider the measure on Monday afternoon.

While disappointed, Beach, R-Alpharetta, vowed to crisscross Georgia this summer and fall to pitch legalized gambling to groups that stand to benefit from gambling proceeds.

The bill called for steering revenues from casinos to Georgia's HOPE Scholarships program, a new needs-based scholarship initiative and to rural health care.

"I'm going to double down on this and do a statewide tour after the [legislative] session to talk to hospital administrators, educators and chamber of commerce officials to educate the public about the great things in this bill," he said.

While the bill's supporters touted the economic impact and job creation that would come from building two "destination" resort casinos in Georgia, as called for in the legislation, opponents warned that casinos would bring an increase in crime.

On Monday, Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, said casinos have been linked with sex trafficking.

"They may dress it up as a 'destination' resort," he said. "But if you put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig."

Even if casino gambling had passed the Senate this year, its odds in the Georgia House of Representative were considered problematic at best.