Legislators see Halfway as a potential web site for the on line casino resort


MIDWAY, Ga. (WSAV) – After several failed attempts, lawmakers are trying again to pass a bill that would legalize casino gambling in Georgia. Supporters of the effort have marked several locations for development, one of which is in Midway.

The piece of land is right off Interstate 95, a corridor that is used by 85,000 vehicles every day.

"We have been kept informed of various efforts to get this casino to vote," said Ronald Tolley, CEO of the Liberty County Development Authority.

Tolley says it would be a huge win for the county and aid longstanding efforts to diversify its economy.

"We have been very blessed with Fort Stewart, but running a casino and the various things that go with it would be very beneficial to the community," said Tolley.

The project requires a constitutional amendment. The bill, known as House Resolution 30, calls for a nationwide referendum asking voters to approve a "limited number" of casino resorts.

If two-thirds of the State House and Senate vote in favor, it will be on the ballot next November.

"If the state referendum happens anywhere they want to go, there has to be a local invitational referendum passed," said Rep. Al Williams, who represents District 168, where the casino would be located.

Williams says it's up to the people to decide. Those with moral objections don't have to gamble, he says, but can still reap the benefits.

He says the project could create 800 to 1,200 permanent jobs with an average income of $ 42,000 a year plus benefits.

"We could consider cutting property taxes by 25 to 35 percent," Williams said. "If you are against it, opt out of your 30% cut and tell them," You keep this. "

According to William, 70% of Georgians have indicated that they want to vote on the law. Tolley says if the referendum hits Liberty County he is confident it will be successful.

"I think it would certainly happen in Liberty County because most people know that offering jobs to people is good," Tolley said. "It helps them, their families and the entire community."

Commercial real estate manager Rick Lackey is involved in the project. He says only about 10% of the property is for gambling. The other 90% includes shops, restaurants, and accommodations.

His hope for the location is to attract those traveling to Florida or other vacation destinations.

"We want to give them a place to stay a couple of nights," said Lackey.

Lackey worked with Rep. Ron Stephens, another major sponsor of the bill. Stephens says under House Resolution 30, a portion of casino proceeds would be used for the HOPE scholarship and other study and grant programs.

"The proceeds from this would continue to flow through the lottery commission into student funding as it is today," said Stephens, who represents the 164th district.

A bill that would legalize sports betting will be negotiated in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. Stephens says this is a precursor to legalizing gambling in Georgia.

"It's on the Economic Development Committee today," said Stephens, "if it comes out it'll be eligible for rules tomorrow, and I hope to get it down to the ground next week."

The bill stipulates that Georgia Lottery Corp., which would receive tax revenue from profits from sports betting, would license at least six companies to operate sports betting in the state of Peach.

According to Stephens, Midway isn't the only website for a casino. He says they identified at least six potential locations, including one in Savannah.