Georgia Republicans Oppose a Casino

At noon today, the Georgia House of Representatives’ Regulated Industries Committee is going to consider legislation authorizing the creation of a casino in downtown Atlanta. There are a number of people, myself included, who do not oppose a casino particularly, but do oppose this legislation.

Last night, I pre-recorded my radio program so I could spend time with my kids and keep a promise to take them to Lego Batman. But my phone started going nuts in the theater. I stepped out to see what was going on and discovered the casino legislation would be up for a vote today. This is important because on Monday the Republican leaders in the state legislature announced the casino legislation was dead for the year. Now, on the last possible day that the legislation can be considered, they have resurrected it and are trying to rush it through.

I left the theater and pre-empted my own taped show to go live. I told my listeners they could use The Resurgent’s online activism portal to reach out to members of the Georgia House of Representatives to oppose the casino. The graphic above shows every point of contact, including a few people who were out of state who listened online (the system would only work with Georgia addresses).

The problems with the present casino legislation are enormous.

First, they cannot be honest about it. They are calling it a “destination resort” to tamp down opposition.

Second, they are requiring it to have an entertainment venue. This new, government mandated venue, will compete with existing for profit and non-profit Atlanta entertainment venues like the Verizon amphitheater, Lakewood Arena, the Fox Theater, the Tabernacle, etc. This government mandate has strong potential to jeopardize existing businesses.

Third, the studies of this casino’s effect show it will not bring in new revenue, but will just transfer revenue from other areas. In particular, the Georgia lottery that funds the statewide Hope scholarship would suffer. The lottery fund is already underfunding that scholarship and this casino would jeopardize it further. In order to get votes for the legislation, casino profits paid to the state will be divided between rural healthcare, trauma care, schools, and the Hope scholarship, thereby further reducing scholarship funding.

Fourth, almost every outside study not funded by casinos shows that urban casinos increase bankruptcies, addiction, human trafficking, divorce, crime, and other social ills while not doing all the glorious things promised. On top of that, local businesses tend to suffer and new businesses tend to avoid the area, thereby lowering the status of the property around the casino.

Since 6:38pm last night when I went on air, Georgians have generated over 24,000 messages in opposition to this legislation. The question remains whether the legislature will listen to its voters or check writers.

Perhaps Georgia Should Just Legalize Marijuana

Less than a year after Republican voters in Georgia definitively rejected the idea of casino gambling in Georgia on their ballots, Georgia’s Republican legislators have begun slowly stacking the deck in favor of a casino in downtown Atlanta.

At a recent hearing, the opponents of casino gambling were invited then they were prohibited from testifying.

In fact, a plethora of studies not paid for by casino gambling interests have shown casinos do not do the economic good they claim. In fact, states like Louisiana, Illinois, and even New Jersey with Atlantic City are not getting the economic benefits promised by lobbyists for casinos.

But what study after study after study shows is that the areas immediately around casinos do see an increase in burglary, drugs, prostitution, bankruptcy, and addiction. In fact, casinos do not so much add to the economy as they redirect people’s money into the casinos and away from other activities.

Georgia’s Republican legislators, however, probably already accepting casino interest campaign contributions, are willing to ignore the data for cash in their own pockets and the optimistic forecasts of lobbyists willing to ignore outside data. More importantly, it is because Republicans in Georgia have no new ideas to lower costs of education in Georgia and are desperate to fund the HOPE Scholarship.

Maybe they should try legalizing recreational marijuana instead.

We now have a few years of data in Colorado and elsewhere. There has not been a dramatic spike in crime. There has not been a dramatic spike in addiction. There has not been a dramatic spike in prostitution. There has not been a dramatic spike in bankruptcies. But what there has been is a substantial increase in tax revenue — something casinos have not delivered on.

If Georgia’s legislature is going to ignore its voters who have already said they don’t want a casino, they might as well push forward with marijuana legalization. They’ll see less of a spike in crime, a reduction in incarceration rates, and a bigger pool of new tax dollars than they would with a casino.