Future Friday, Chapter 1: Casino Gambling in Georgia

I often say that there are only two categories of predictions in politics -those that turn out to be wrong, and those that turn out to be lucky. I try not to make predictions of any sort, but since the political present is pretty awful, let’s look into the future, and try to see around the the curve in the road at what might be coming our way.

As certain as anything can be in politics, your state legislators will be pressured to legalize casino gambling during the next session. The casino interests have not taken their eyes off Georgia, and according to Bill Torpy, “MGM’s James Murren said his company is willing to build a $1.4 billion “integrated resort” that includes a casino, a hotel, a concert hall, restaurants and shopping.

“We’re not interested in commodities, we’re not interested in the slot business,” he said. “We’re interested in the type of resorts that provide a nexus between entertainment, hospitality and gaming.

That ‘nexus between entertainment, hospitality and gaming’ is being dangled as a way to pump more money into the HOPE scholarship and to bring new tourists to Atlanta and Georgia, presumably to spend some tourist money in our existing entertainment and hospitality venues.

Torpy also notes that the casino gambling forces have created an unlikely partnership between State Sen. Josh McKoon (described by conspiracy website Alternet as “Georgia’s meanest Republican” and State Sen. Vincent Fort, (an Atlanta Democrat with a liberal opinion for every topic.)

Both McKoon and Fort oppose legalizing casino gambling, and if there was ever anything guaranteed to create trouble in River City, it’s a partnership between those two.

But there are a few big things that have to happen before the youth of Georgia can “get to frittern away their time.” For starters, legalizing gambling would have to be approved by Georgia’s voters, and the issue would have to be approved (by 2/3 majorities) in both the State House and the State Senate. That’s a tall order, even if they hire another three dozen lobbyists.

But the casino interests have one very big advantage, as noted by David Blankenhorn, president of the American Values Institute.

“They never give up,” Blankenhorn said. “No one doesn’t want it as much as they want it…” The opposition just isn’t as “anti-gambling” as the proponents are “pro-gambling.” And the only thing more successful than luck is persistence.

The folks pushing casino gambling have already deployed a platoon of lobbyists, and could ramp up to battalion strength pretty quickly. They’re determined, and have shown a willingness to make campaign contributions. They also have, in Sens. McKoon and Fort, stubborn and vocal opposition.

The if and the when of legal casino gambling in Georgia is not something that anyone who knows what they’re talking about would predict. But the push to legalize it will resume in January of 2017 -that’s a sure bet.



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