Casino Gaming in Georgia? Don’t Bet On It Just Yet
Casino gaming is, at present, not permitted in the State of Georgia. Indeed, some commentators have gone as far as to categorize Georgia as one of the three least gambling-friendly states in the nation. Yet, others believe that Georgia’s casino-gaming prohibition may soon come to an end. In fact, some legislators and commentators are of the belief that 2017 may be the year during which Georgia is added to the ever-growing list of states that permit and perhaps encourage casino gaming.
Currently, only three forms of gambling are lawful in the State of Georgia: (1) Bingo, (2) the Georgia State Lottery, and (3) Charitable Raffles. With only three forms of gambling legally permissible in the State of Georgia, it is indisputable that Georgia law is relatively strict when it comes to gambling. For example, explicitly prohibited under Georgia law are horse racing, dog racing, election wagering, commercial gambling, dog fighting, chain letters, pyramid clubs, and, indeed, casino gaming.
Despite the strict and prohibitive nature of Georgia’s gambling laws, there has been a growing trend of late within the Georgia State Legislature toward the legalization of casino gaming. In 2012, the Georgia Senate narrowly voted to authorize the construction and operation of a land-based casino, the profits from which would be used to fund educational initiatives at the state and local level. The proposed bill, however, was never signed and did not take effect. Nevertheless, the 2012 vote at the very least signaled hope for casino-gaming advocates within the State of Georgia.
Commentators have noted that, in 2015 and 2016, there were increased and, in fact, quite serious discussions among Georgia legislators with respect to the possible legalization of casino gaming within the State. One state legislator, for example, who has voiced strong and fervent support for casino gaming is State Senator Brandon Beach, who has advocated for the legalization of horse racing and casino gaming to help fund the HOPE Scholarship Program. Beach’s past proposals have sought the construction and subsequent operation of as many as five casinos and one horse-racing venue within Georgia’s borders. According to Beach, these new venues would result in increased tax revenues being deposited into Georgia’s coffers, which would thereby help fund and create educational, scholarship, and financial-aid opportunities for Georgia’s student population. On January 11, a study presented by Central Atlanta Progress estimated that casino gaming in Georgia could generate $320 million to $400 million annually.
The Georgia Legislature convened for its latest session in early January of 2017, with Beach and his supporters hoping to once again initiate talks to legalize casino gaming and, as a result, to put any and all revenues collected from casino gaming to educational and scholarship needs. Despite these undeniably worthy causes, however, most scholars and commentators are of the belief that, if additional proposals were introduced in the Georgia Legislature today, those proposals would steadfastly be opposed by a majority of Georgia’s lawmakers for political, religious and social reasons. Ultimately, it will be up to the voters of Georgia to decide if casino gaming is acceptable.
Even if the legalization of casino gaming is not imminent, there is much more support therefor today than in years past. It is likely that with growing support for casino gaming, it is only a matter of time perhaps before Georgia is added to the ever-growing list of states that have legalized casino gaming.