Georgia GOP Passes Resolution Against Casino Gambling

There has been increased support over the last couple years for legalized casino gambling in the state of Georgia, but the state’s Republican Party is now officially against it. Earlier this month, the Georgia GOP – which doesn’t necessarily speak for every Republican lawmaker in the state, but is rather a delegation representing Republicans in the state – passed a resolution urging “the members of the Georgia Legislature to cease and desist with any efforts to open the State of Georgia to casino and horse racing.”

Georgia has no gambling to speak of except for the lottery. The lottery’s revenues go to support the HOPE Scholarship, a scholarship program established in 1993 to help Georgia students pay for in-state colleges and universities as well as fund the public pre-K programs around the state. Every high school student who earns at least a 3.0 grade point average is eligible for a HOPE scholarship and can keep it provided they also maintain a 3.0 in college.

Georgia StampThe problem is, the HOPE Scholarship has been such a runaway success that it is becoming harder and harder to keep the scholarships funded. As a result, payments for books and school fees were done away with in 2011 and in 2015, new “academic vigor” standards were implemented, essentially making it harder for students to qualify.

Some lawmakers hope casino gambling can help fill in the HOPE Scholarship gaps. One such person is Georgia State Senator Brandon Beach (R – District 21), who introduced a bill in January that would legalize casino gambling and authorize the construction of up to five casinos and one horse racing track in the state.

The bill went nowhere, but Beach had a plan all laid out. Georgia would be split into four regions; two resort-style casinos would be authorized in the largest one, which would include Atlanta, and one would be authorized in the others. The operator granted the “primary” casino license would have to invest at least $1 billion in a property within 25 miles of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The other casinos would require a $250 million minimum investment and would have to be at least 50 miles from the primary casino. A $150 minimum investment would be required for the horse track.

Casino revenue would be taxed at 12 percent and the casinos would be regulated by the Georgia Lottery Corporation.

As one would expect, several religious and conservative groups, including the Georgia GOP, have come out against casino gambling. In addition, some restaurant and entertainment venues don’t like the idea of an Atlanta casino potentially drawing away their customers.

Beach, a Republican himself, intends to keep plugging away and will re-introduce his bill next January. It appears that he will tweak his bill to increase both the tax rate and the required investment.

MGM has met with Atlanta business and government leaders on multiple occasions, pitching a $1.4 billion destination casino.

The Georgia GOP’s resolution against casino gambling is copied below, in its entirety:

WHEREAS, Georgia Republican legislators have introduced legislation that would allow for casino gambling in Georgia; and

WHEREAS, the gambling bills now mask the negative connotations of casino gambling by referring to casinos euphemistically as “destination resorts”; and

WHEREAS, the usual arguments for opening the state to casino and horse racing continue to be, “this will create jobs” and “it is for the children” because it will generate revenue for Pre- K and for the HOPE scholarship, and

WHEREAS, these reasons fail to overcome the substantial societal costs of casino and horse racing, which include:

1.    because gamblers are twice as likely to divorce as non- gamblers,
2.    an increase in local crime by at least ten percent within five years or less after the establishment of a casino, including an increase in prostitution;
3.    local job loss because local citizens change their spending habits,
4.    an increase in bankruptcies, and
5.    an increase in child neglect and domestic violence; and

WHEREAS, all tax payers, including non-gamblers, end up paying higher taxes for these publicly borne social costs; and

WHEREAS, the proposed establishment of the gambling industry in Georgia violates free- market principles by instituting a politically protected industry that will drain customers from legitimate businesses not similarly protected; and

WHEREAS, once the gambling industry is allowed to operate legally in the state, its lobbying power will grow and increase its influence over legislators and local community officials; and

WHEREAS, once the State of Georgia allows Class III gambling, this would open the door for any Indian tribe to “venue shop” for property to open casinos on land that would be taken out of the governance of the State and off the local tax digest; and

WHEREAS, the State should not have a vested interest in predatory activities such as gambling for the sake of filling State coffers at the expense of ruined lives and broken families;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, We, the delegates of Georgia Republican Convention, urge the members of the Georgia Legislature to cease and desist with any efforts to open the State of Georgia to casino and horse racing;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Secretary of Georgia Republican Party Convention is directed to immediately transmit an appropriate copy of this resolution to the Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party and to all elected Republican officials in the Georgia Senate and in the Georgia House; to the Honorable Nathan Deal, Governor of the State of Georgia, the Honorable Casey Cagle, Lieutenant Governor of the State of Georgia; and to the Honorable David Ralston, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

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