Despite being late to the party, a Georgia legislator has introduced an amendment to the constitution that would expand options for gambling within the state to horse racing and casinos. With the tax revenue from such gaming, the state would be able to provide additional funds to the HOPE scholarship program as well as the Pre-K program, with estimates as high as $250 million each year from just one destination casino. The bill has been introduced too late for the current session but has time to become a topic of discussion.
The new bill is currently sponsored by Ron Stephens, the Economic Development and Tourism Chairman. If passed, the bill would allow the officials over the Georgia Lottery to approve the construction of as many as six casinos within the state. The estimations for the project by a potential gaming company backer have reached the $1 billion investment mark and could create as many as 100,000 construction jobs as well as 10,000 permanent jobs when the casino facility opens.
Stephens would like to see a new casino be placed at Hutchinson Island which is the convention area of Savannah. However, the new legislation was introduced too late for a vote this year based on the procedures of the General Assembly. The current session will end on April 2nd and Stephens has stated he wants to give the opponents of his bill time to find any flaws and then fix such items, negotiating an agreement to see the casino come to fruition.
Several groups are likely to be opposed to the bill, such as conservative groups and churches. Back in January, bills were introduced into the House and Senate that would have permitting wagering on horse races and both groups worked to see the bills stopped in their tracks. These groups believe that such gaming will create crime and prey on the poor.
With the latest proposal by Stephens, tourists and convention participants will be the main draw, with supporters able to argue that Georgians will not be exploited. The plans also claim to have the ability to rehabilitate urban areas as well as reduce the crime rate in doing so.
Since the bill proposed by Stephens is an amendment to the constitution, it will require a vote by citizens to be passed into law. The proposal will be added to the ballot if two thirds of legislators vote to see the measure added.