Proponents for bringing casino gambling to Georgia just added another ally as Augusta has joined the growing number of cities and counties on board with lobbying efforts to amend the state constitution to legalize casinos.
According to WALB News Fox 54, in a unanimous vote Augusta commissioners moved to allocate funds to educate the public on how the state of Georgia would benefit from the addition of casinos.
Rep. Ron Stephens’ HR 807 would have added the question to last November’s election ballot, asking Georgia voters to amend the state constitution to legalize casinos and permit the development of up to four in the state, with two in the metro Atlanta area, but the bill never did make it to the House floor. Any legislation first needs to gain approval in the state House of Representatives in order to make its way to the state Senate for further consideration. While the legislation didn’t make it to vote last year, House Representatives plan to take on the issue this year in aggressive fashion.
Recently, Stephens said that this year he plans to present something similar to last year’s proposal that was approved by the Regulated Industries Committee in February 2016. HR 807 called for minimum investments of $1.25 billion for one Atlanta-area casino and $750 million for the other, with a $400 million investment for the final two statewide licenses.
Supporters of the amendment say that casino gambling is the answer to the high demand for the HOPE Scholarship and say that at a minimum, 90 percent of the state’s profits from the casino revenue would go towards funding the program. Currently, HOPE is funded entirely by revenue from the Georgia Lottery.
Augusta Commissioner for District 9, Marion Williams, told the news agency that he was on board for anything that generates money for the area. He said, “I’m all for whatever we can get. I hope Augusta benefits from it. Look at all of this rain we had the other day. All of this water and people are complaining. If we can get some finance and economic development in Augusta.”
The gambling bill last session divided the state into regions and Atlanta and Augusta were placed in the same north Georgia region for two possible casinos. Heading the effort for the latter to be selected as one of the casino locations, is the Augusta Legislative Delegation.
According to a recent report, state lobbying records show a minimum of 49 registrations on the behalf of several casino operators, including the two largest casino companies in the world; Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts, which had expressed serious interest in an Atlanta-area casino, as well as Wynn Resorts.