The first legislative session for the Georgia General Assembly will start on January 13, and the state will get a chance to discuss its casino legislation.
Georgia’s long fight for a legalization
For years, casino bills have come and gone in the state of Georgia, failing to create any real reforms in the state. However, as the current tax revenues are decreasing, the industry is coming out in support of the legislation yet again. Republican Senator Brandon Beach headed a special committee to review gambling legalization in the state, which included sports betting, casino resorts and pari-mutuel horse racing options.
The committee held its last meeting recently, but it didn’t formally adopt recommendations for the Senate. However, Sen. Beach believes that some forms of gambling could be allowed in the state as soon as 2020. He said there is some momentum behind the proposition for this season, but that would need more deliberation.
The unique case of Georgia
Unlike the states of New Jersey, Nevada, New York, and Illinois, Georgia doesn’t have tribal casinos or commercial casinos. In fact, it is one of the eight states that do not have a casino presence. It is also one of the six states that do not have pari-mutuel horse racing and sports betting traditions, along with South Carolina, Vermont, Utah, Tennessee, and Hawaii.
Not everyone in the state favors the gambling legislator. Opponents suggest that the arrival of commercial casinos and sports betting options will take the revenues of the Georgia Lottery away. Consequently, the proceeds going to the HOPE Scholarship fund will be reduced. In fiscal 2018, the lottery scored a new record and delivered $1.14 billion in education via the fund.
However, Beach suggests that casinos will not just add to the state’s tax revenue but will also bring several new jobs. He said that the lottery doesn’t create as many jobs as casinos could, and that is why he supports the legislation. Interestingly, the limited scope of job creation is the reason behind its reservations for sports betting. He clarified that he wants “jobs and industry,” which could be facilitated by commercial casinos.
The House created a special committee to define how to bring additional tax income for the state, which focused on gambling. Their goal is to patch the $200 million to $300 million shortfalls in funding existing programs.