Georgia lawmakers looking at legalized gambling

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle speaks during a press conference on Jan. 5, 2017. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

ATLANTA — A state senator introduced a bill to legalize the operation of a pair of resort-style casinos in Georgia.

“Casino style gaming is a large tourism and revenue building market that Georgia is missing out on,” Sen. Brandon Beach, R–Alpharetta, said in a news release. “The two proposed destination resorts will not only bring tourism to our great state, they will bring more than 5,000 jobs and unparalleled capital that will go directly towards funding the HOPE Scholarship and other education programs in Georgia. This is a win-win situation and I’m eager to get the ball rolling on its passage.”

If approved and signed into law, Senate Bill 79, the Destination Resort Act, would create the Georgia Gaming Commission, modeled after Nevada’s Gaming Commission. The body would be comprised of five members appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the house.

The commission will have the ability to award two destination resort licenses to qualified applicants and will be responsible for oversight of the resorts.

State Rep. Ron Stephens, R–Savannah, introduced a companion measure, House Bill 158.

One resort license must be utilized for operation in a county with a population over 900,000 with an investment of at least $2 billion, and it shall include a hotel with a minimum of 1,000 rooms. The other license must be for a county with a population of at least 250,000 but not more than 900,000, and an investment of at least $450 million.

The multiuse resorts will include restaurants, retail shops, hotels, limited gaming facilities, convention and meeting centers, entertainment facilities and service centers. They will be privately funded and no taxpayer money will be utilized during construction or operation, officials say.

SB 79 would become effective on January 1, 2019, if a Constitutional Amendment is passed by the Georgia General Assembly and approved by the citizens of Georgia in the 2018 General Election.

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