Lawmakers in dozens of states across the US are pondering over the likelihood of starting gambling in their jurisdictions. While some states choose to hold a referendum, others are introducing new bills in their legislatures. Georgia lawmakers have found a unique way to incorporate the voices of citizens. They are taking the gambling discussions to the road, literally.
Meetings scheduled across the state
This Tuesday, a House committee held a meeting discussing tax revenue on casinos in Valdosta. They also discussed horse racing and sports betting and using the revenue generated by these activities to boost the HOPE scholarship program designed for college students. It was the first among several such meetings to be held in the state in the coming days.
According to Snellville Republican Rep. Brett Harrell,
“Our intent is to ask the citizens, ‘Do you support inviting this industry to Georgia?’. If the answer is yes, how do you want us to enable this industry to come to Georgia, so you all get your piece of the pie?”
If the citizens support gambling, lawmakers will make a state constitutional amendment. The process is lengthy and difficult. First, it will require each chamber of the state general assembly to provide a two-thirds majority to the proposal. Next, the issue will be sent for a voter referendum. They could either hold a statewide referendum or allow each county to hold a separate vote to decide their local gambling laws.
Helping people understand gambling
Valdosta Republican Senator Ellis Black said that it is crucial to persuade voters and inform them what opening the gambling market could entail. It is essential if the state wants to create detailed gambling legislation followed by a constitutional amendment.
Most members of the House Committee favor the resort-style casinos that could bolster employment in the region. Recently, Lowndes County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter asked about the economic impact of gambling on the state. Savannah Republican Rep. Ron Stephens said that allowing six gambling resorts in the state could add $1 billion in the state’s tax revenue.
Valdosta is a relatively small city in the state, and it is unlikely to get a casino until lawmakers approve multiple licenses in the state. However, the city has a very strategic location as far as luring Florida gamblers is concerned. The area only has pari-mutuel and American Indian tribe casinos, and a new Valdosta casino could be a lucrative opportunity for the state to capture a larger gambling market.