There’s a new twist in the ongoing battle to legalize gambling in the state of Georgia. This is due to the fact that two lawmakers who for a long time have been campaigning for the casino industry have chosen to adopt a new stance.
Voters Should Decide: Ron Stephens
Ron Stephens, who currently sits at the helm of the House Economic Development and Tourism, is now urging voters to let their voices be heard on whether or not Georgia should fully embrace gambling.
The Savannah Republican has supported the campaign for casino gambling for years but has now taken a step back to let people reassess if they really want any form of gambling to operate in the state.
For 25 years, the people of Georgia have only been gambling through the state’s lottery. The state lottery has helped hundreds of thousands of students with their education since 1933 by pouring in funds to the state’s HOPE scholarship program.
Stephens thinks it is necessary to set up a regulatory body that will take charge of all kinds of gambling in the state before bringing the relevant question to the voters. He is eyeing legislation to create a gaming commission that will look at what gambling forms should be recommended. The new commission will then be granted the authority to supervise whatever gets approved and implemented.
Stephen clarified that he isn’t completely turning his back on supporting gambling legalization and said that he could come back and push for it once voters decide to allow gambling in the state.
Brandon Beach to File Horse Racing Bill
Meanwhile, Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Brandon Beach is now shifting his attention to the state’s equine industry. The lawmaker said it’s about time Georgia builds a horse-racing business which could potentially generate huge revenue not only from racing but also from horse farms, auctions, breeding and other activities and events.
Beach, who previously lobbied for casinos, now plans to file a horse racing bill before the end of the week. Under the proposal, a certain share of the racing revenue will go directly to HOPE and the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.
The Alpharetta Republican hopes to see a multi-functional racetrack that can be modeled from the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park. The racetrack will bring in big economic benefits to Middle and South Georgia.
The horse racing proposal is backed by Dean Reeves, president of the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition, who said that the industry will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue and generate more jobs for the people of Georgia.
Opposition Still Strong
The push to expand gambling in Georgia has been around for years but the campaign has met with little success, partly due to the strong opposition shown by faith leaders and conservative groups who consider gambling as an immoral act that poses serious risks to the citizens of Georgia.
While there were hopes that the state’s legislature would finally get the ball rolling on gambling,  numerous proposals have been left on the shelf by lawmakers, including a bill that could have paved the way for the regulation of daily fantasy sports, and a ballot measure that would have allowed Georgians to decide whether or not to allow destination luxury casinos in the state’s strategic areas.
While some states are now benefiting from a US Supreme Court decision to lift the ban on sports betting throughout the country, Georgia’s Legislature never bothered to place the matter at the top of the agenda.
Bill Cowsert, Chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries, said one of the reasons that the bills are struggling to be passed is probably because Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan still haven’t made their minds up on the issue. Both officials have publicly said they are against casinos but they have not stated their positions on other forms of gambling.
Donations from gambling companies have seen a decline, with firms like MGM Resorts International only donating $50,000 to a liberal action committee in September 2018. The Georgia Republican Party received just $25,000 from IGT Global Solutions. This is a significant drop from 2016, when the gambling campaign was boosted by around $200,000 worth of donations from gaming companies and stakeholders.

TightPoker Staff

TightPoker Staff

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