The Wynn Las Vegas hotel and casino, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Georgia Casino Bill dead for now, but fight looms for 2018

Georgia State Senator Brandon Beach, the sponsor of the Georgia casino gambling bill, has announced that the bill will not be passed this session. This week marks the final chance for the Senate to pass bills in time for them to be introduced in the House during the 2017 legislative session, and the “Destination Resort” bill is still mired in committee.

Beach vows to “double down and…crisscross the state starting in April” to drum up support for the bill. Beach and his allies have an enormous amount of money to mount their campaign, and plan to use those resources to build momentum for the pivotal 2018 legislative session. Even though the bill cannot make it to the House in 2017, opponents should continue to be vigilant, as lessened pressure in the wake of this announcement could allow Beach to push the bill out of committee and clear one of the impending hurdles for 2018.

While Beach may enjoy high profile, high dollar support for his bill, grassroots efforts across the state serve as a significant obstacle for the casino gambling effort. Among those leading the fight are evangelical organizations such as Faith and Freedom Coalition and Citizen Impact. While keeping tabs on Beach and his bill is important, it’s equally important to stay connected with groups that are taking a stand against casino gambling. Paul Smith, Executive Director of Citizen Impact, had this to say about the news.

“The Georgia casino bill is dead for 2017, fallen under the weight of reality. The reality that it will not be the economic windfall that is being promised. The reality that places like Atlantic City have acknowledged that they are not benefiting from casinos. The reality that selling casinos to voters requires a lot of smoke and mirrors and downright deception. The reality that it will bring crime, including more human trafficking, for which Atlanta has gained quite a reputation. The reality that changing the Georgia Constitution is not easy, as it should be. The AJC reported today that the casino bill sponsor, Sen. Brandon Beach said, ‘I will double down and plan to crisscross the state starting in April’ to build support for the bill in 2018; which he is, of course, entitled to do. I will be doing the same, speaking in churches across Georgia, doing what I can to raise awareness, so that people of faith can continue to communicate to their legislators this message: ‘not in my backyard.’”

I know Paul Smith personally and I’m very happy to see Citizen Impact on the front lines in the effort to stop casino gambling in Georgia. While there are significant barriers that Beach will have to overcome to pass the bill in 2018, there is an enormous amount of money behind the effort. Those opposed to the bill should remain vigilant to keep pressure on their legislators and consider supporting organizations fighting on our behalf.

About the author

Sam Thomas

Sam is a youth minister, writer, political activist, and an avid fly fisherman. He coaches debate at Clark Atlanta University where he was named the 2016-17 Georgia Parliamentary Debate Coach of the Year.

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