A study paid for by the Central Atlanta Progress downtown business coalition has reportedly cast doubts on whether legalizing up to four casino resorts in Georgia would produce the desired economic benefits.
According to a report from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the investigation conducted by hospitality consultants HLT Advisory and Horwath ATL found that casino resorts in the southern state could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues. However, the study was unable to determine how much of this money would be new to Georgia versus the amount that would likely be diverted from other parts of the economy.
The newspaper reported the study concluded that the majority of casino visitors would likely be locals and not tourists. As a result, the new venues would probably “cannibalize” spending that might have otherwise gone to nearby restaurants, museums or concert halls and additionally undercut other sources of state and local taxes.
“At the moment, we’re trying to grasp the compelling reason to have it [in downtown],” AJ Robinson, Chief Executive Officer for Central Atlanta Progress, told the newspaper. “We’ve got so much going on, so many wonderful things.”
The newspaper declared that MGM Resorts International allegedly scouted downtown Atlanta sites for a planned $1 billion resort casino last summer just as lawmakers were debating a bill that would have changed the Georgia constitution to permit up to four such developments. In the end, this legislation failed to gain any traction but Robinson stated that it was important to fund analysis into the economic impacts of casinos on job creation, property tax values, sales tax collections, cannibalized discretionary spending and society.
“There’s not enough information that is compelling in this to say we’ve got to have it,” Robinson told the newspaper. “There’s probably not enough information to kill it. Our whole intention is to get educated.”
The Central Atlanta Progress report estimated that Georgia’s casino market could be worth up to $2.5 billion a year and that over $570 million is spent annually by Georgians in out-of-state casinos. It concluded that a proposed 20% tax rate on casino revenues could produce $320 million to $400 million a year for the state although the developments would likely slightly reduce takings for the Georgia Lottery.
In addition, Robinson proclaimed that a large amount of new hotel rooms from a downtown casino resort could hurt the margins of existing hotels while stating that legalized gambling would not likely broaden Atlanta’s tourism appeal.