ATLANTA – Georgian legislature is again considering legalizing gambling in Peach State.
A constitutional amendment introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives on Tuesday calls for a nationwide referendum to approve a limited number of "casino resorts" across the state.
A portion of the proceeds would be used for the HOPE Scholarship and other study and grant programs at public and private colleges and universities, as well as at the Technical College System of Georgia locations. The money would also help meet the casino's operating costs and fund addictive gambling prevention and treatment programs.
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The legislation is sponsored by several longtime casino legalization advocates, including Republican Reps Ron Stephens of Savannah and Alan Powell of Hartwell, and Democratic Rep. Calvin Smyre of Columbus.
Stephens argued that Georgia voters should have the right to choose whether to legalize casino gambling, which has received strong public support in numerous polls.
"The Georgians support the economic opportunities that casino resorts offer, particularly the jobs and income that they would bring to local communities," he said.
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Legalization of casino gambling has long been supported by the private sector. Atlanta Motor Speedway officials last year tabled a plan to build a $ 1 billion casino resort next to the Hampton racetrack.
However, interest in casinos extends far beyond the metropolitan area. The developers who built The Battery, a mixed-use development that includes Truist Park by Atlanta Braves in Cobb County's, have rendered renderings of proposed casino resorts on the Chattahoochee River near Columbus, Lake Hartwell in Lavonia and Released halfway south of Savannah.
"While Metro Atlanta may seem an obvious location, rural Georgia may have better locations," said Rick Lackey, founder of City Commercial Real Estate in Atlanta, who recently announced it had more than 5,000 acres potential casino gives resort locations under lease agreements.
"In general, successful destination resorts with casinos attract customers who can easily get there by car and are within a 2 to 5 hour drive of major population centers," said Lackey.
Passing casino laws will be a tough task for Georgian lawmakers. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority in the State House and Senate, a hurdle that has not been overcome in previous sessions given the opposition to legalized gambling by religious conservatives.
The casino legislation is the second legalized gambling proposal that the General Assembly made in the early days of the 2021 legislature. Stephens tabled a bill earlier this month to legalize online sports betting in Georgia.