Georgia is one of the least friendly gambling states in the America, but legislators have been discussing the possibility of legalizing gambling in Atlanta, the capital city. The state currently only permits a lottery and few charity games to function and gaming analysts believe that there is a huge market for the gambling industry, which could potentially generate a significant amount of gaming tax revenue for the government.

While there is no indication as to when gambling could be legalized in Atlanta, a couple of downtown civic groups want to see a research study conducted to find out the pros and cons of legalizing gambling in Atlanta. The Atlanta Downtown Improvement District (ADID) and the Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) are neither for or against the gaming industry as of now because they believe there is insufficient data for them to make an informed decision.

ADID and CAP have now commissioned Horwath HTL and HLT Advisory, Inc, an independent firm to research what will happen to downtown Atlanta and beyond once gambling is legalized.

In a statement, A.J. Robinson, head of CAP and ADID said “To be as frank as I can, there’s not enough data out there for people to really understand the pros and cons and how this will affect particularly Atlanta. We’re business folks. We’d like to look and analyze and see what this is really all about. There’s a lot of data out there, but it hasn’t been presented to us or really anyone in a way to make an intelligent decision.”

Legislators have been discussing the possibility of issuing up to six licenses for casino resorts to open in 5 different places in Georgia. The locations being considered are Atlanta, Macon, Columbus, Savannah and South Georgia. Some of the biggest gambling operators in the country have already expressed their interest in investing billions into Georgia should the gambling be legalized.

Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts have already spoken with state legislators and their first interest appears to be setting up a casino in Atlanta. Jim Murren, the CEO of MGM Resorts has gone on record to say that his company would build a $1 billion casino resort in Atlanta, if a license was given to their firm. However it appears highly unlikely that the Georgia will legalize gambling in 2016 as Gov. Nathan Deal is not in favour of legalizing gambling and with the presidential elections taking center stage in 2016, the push to legalize gambling in Georgia could take a backseat.

The CAP and ADID have stated that they will proceed first with the downtown study and later look at similar studies that take into account the entire state. The final report on the downtown gaming study is expected to be released before the end of March this year.

One Response

  1. Steven Norton

    Governor Deal has indicated he would only be interested in considering casinos in Georgia, if the tax rate were higher than MGM’s proposed 12%, for it’s suggested $1 billion resort. The type casino development for downtown Atlanta is very different than the optimum project for a rural or neighborhood casino in Greater Atlanta, and again very different for the 4 other regional projects. A downtown casino would best copy the concept of the Venetian-Palazzo or Mandalay Bay, that includes several million square feet of meeting and exhibit space, along with thousands of hotel rooms. The contemplated casino in Greater Atlanta, would probably produce greater casino revenues, if located on a major interstate and closer to the population; but could be built with a smaller investment, because the primary attractions would be gaming, entertainment and dining. The remaining 4 locations, with no competition, could be built for under $500 million, affording a much higher tax rate, than a destination casino resort in Downtown Atlanta. A possible solution to the exceptional investment required for a convention/casino resort, would be to have the same tax rate for all, but provide a tax credit for investment above an agreed threshold, for the Downtown project. Atlanta residents already have casinos in nearby North Carolina, Alabama and Biloxi; but there are also 2 million seats, available annually from Hartsfield to Las Vegas, on 40 flights per day. Just looking at the casino or racino experiments in other states, will show that the benefits of gaming far exceed the drawbacks, and these 6 casinos could provide $500 million to a $ billion annually for the HOPE Scholarship program.

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