In a pivotal shift for the state of Georgia, the landscape of leisure and entertainment could be on the brink of major transformation. Lawmakers are poised to put forward a proposition that could unlock a vibrant future for casino resorts, racetracks, and the burgeoning industry of mobile sports betting.
State Senator Brandon Beach of Alpharetta is at the forefront of this legislative push, intent on introducing a bill to give Georgian voters the power to decide on this issue in the next year’s ballot. His vision: to establish three opulent casino resorts, a premier pari-mutuel racetrack, and the thrills of mobile sportsbooks within the boundaries of the Peach State.
Sen. Beach, serving as the co-chairman of the legislature’s Joint Economic Development and Tourism Committee, has articulated the potential economic windfall of such a venture. At a committee meeting on Wednesday, he projected, “If we were able to do three destination resorts and one racetrack and sports betting, you’re talking about $900 million in revenue to the state.”
The move to amend the constitution and greenlight this gambling expansion stems from a recognition of missed opportunities. With states bordering Georgia already cashing in on legalized sports betting and casino activities, Sen. Beach pointed out the dire consequence of inaction—lost tourism and economic prospects for Georgia. A fact that became starkly apparent during his visit to the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in North Carolina, where the majority of vehicles bore Georgia license plates.
This revelation solidified Beach’s belief that the citizens of Georgia were inadvertently supplementing another state’s coffers. “We are funding North Carolina’s education system with Georgia license plates up there gaming,” he remarked, emphasizing the need for Georgian voters to take this decision into their hands.
Beach envisions a luxury casino resort for Atlanta, not dissimilar in grandeur and scope to Wynn Encore Boston Harbor, complete with an entertainment venue, sumptuous spas, exceptional dining experiences, and a shopping haven boasting eminent brands like Versace and Gucci. However, he makes it clear: the goal is not to replicate the Las Vegas Strip. Rather, he aspires to create an exclusive destination that blends opulence with tasteful elegance.
The dialogue surrounding this proposed legislation, which is still in a draft phase shown to committee members, hints at substantial allocations for state infrastructure, healthcare, and educational programs. According to Beach’s outline, half of the proceeds from gambling operations would fortify a Freight and Logistics Fund, enhancing roads, bridges, and critical transportation avenues. The remainder would be divided, with significant portions directed towards rural healthcare, the battle against gambling addiction and mental health, and bolstering Historically Black Colleges and Universities within the state.
Furthermore, as part of the same initiative, consideration is being given to the establishment of a fund enticing marquee events to Georgia, mirroring the success of such funds in states like Texas.
The journey towards implementation hinges upon voter approval of the constitutional amendment, which would then mandate the legislature to craft regulations through a new gaming commission to oversee the prospective gambling industry.
Meanwhile, the current special session, called by Governor Brian Kemp, restricts the introduction of new bills until the regular session on January 8. Georgia, therefore, stands at a crossroads, with the potential expansion of sports betting on the horizon for 2024, though the inclusion of casinos and pari-mutuels remains a tantalizing uncertainty.
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