Supreme Court Puts Casinos Back In Play

This week’s Courier Herald column:

A couple of weeks ago, while the Georgia political world was mostly focused on political primaries, a United States Supreme Court ruling revived the somewhat dormant debate about casino gaming in Georgia. In a 6-3 decision, the court struck down a federal law that had prohibited most states from authorizing betting on sporting events.

The proliferation of gaming opportunities in other states continues, with new destination casino resorts such as that recently opened at Maryland’s National Harbor., as well as online. DraftKings, the fantasy sports gaming website, has already announced it will enter the sports wagering market.

Whether Georgia choses to legalize sports betting or not, it’s clear that technology and transportation will make it easier than ever for Georgians to legally bet on sporting events. There’s a lot of money at stake, literally. The illegal sports betting market is estimated at $150 Billion annually in the USA. That’s on top of the estimated $570 Million to $670 Million that Georgians take to other states to legally wager at other states’ casinos.

The offer to bring casino gaming to Georgia isn’t new. It just didn’t fit into Governor Nathan Deal’s plans. Which brings us back to November’s elections.

There will be a new Governor this November, and there’s also new fiscal pressures that will greet the new Governor. This year the Georgia legislature passed a bill cutting Georgia’s income tax over the next two years. This cut, however, is conditional, on the state maintaining certain financial triggers.

The state has managed to fully fund QBE and meet other obligations over the past few years by putting the state’s revenue growth toward essential priorities. Any surpluses have been going into the state’s rainy day fund. The tax cuts, at a minimum, will likely stop additions to the state’s savings account.

Any downturn in economic activity, or any additional major priority that needs funding would put a strain on the state’s ability to maintain the income tax cut. Having a new source of revenue that wouldn’t require raising taxes could be considered beneficial to the next Governor – no matter which party they come from.

And this is where a renewed pitch for casino gaming will likely begin. A destination resort casino in or near Atlanta would create about 10,000 permanent jobs and generate about $400 Million in new revenues to the state. This would be without any direct or indirect economic development incentives.

The question is no longer about legalizing gambling. Aside from the fact that this question was answered in Georgia when voters ratified the Lottery and HOPE scholarships, sports betting and the internet will further render the question moot.

In short, Georgia already has games of chance. Georgians are already betting significant sums at casinos. And with legalized sports betting, the general interest in gaming will likely generate a legitimate fear of missing out among both residents and lawmakers alike.

It’s likely to be a question for candidates, but it is one that ultimately must be settled by the voters. Legalizing gaming must ultimately be approved by constitutional amendment.

We can continue to pretend that Georgians aren’t currently participating in these games of chance, or we can take advantage of the situation we already have, and can have. We can continue to let the money go out of state, or we can have over $2 Billion in capital investment, employ 10,000 Georgians in jobs with high wages, and generate several hundred million dollars in new tax revenues.

In short, if we do nothing Georgians will continue to gamble. If we choose to take this opportunity, we can direct what Georgians are already doing to employ other Georgians, and fill Georgia’s coffers.

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ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

I think the casino gambling train has already passes the station. I really dont think it will add much to the table (no pun intended). It would turn into another Underground Atlanta, Fanplex, or whatever other piece of graft that you can imagine exploited by some elected official. I really dont think we need it. The negatives are far more convincing than the positives.
A bunch of chain smoking old ladies blowing their social security one coin at a time in a slot machine doesnt conjure a positive image in my mind.

Rambler14
Rambler14

Why are you assuming that casino gambling in Georgia would turn into Underground Atlanta or Fanplex?

Look at our adjacent neighbors for better examples. Hard Rock Tampa, Hard Rock in South Florida, Harrah’s at Cherokee.

Benevolus
Benevolus

It’s a dilemma. I would expect a big hotel with a couple of restaurants and the casino, mostly for convention-goers or tourists. But that casino would likely take money away from Buckhead and other attractions that out-of-towners currently go to.
Georgians would likely end up in the little storefront casinos which, if visible signs in other states are any indication, aren’t big profit centers. More like the gift shop at a truck stop.

bethebalance
bethebalance

Last I checked, the #1 tourist destination in Atl was: Lenox Mall. So, that leaves open the easy possibility of daytime shopping and nightlife gambling… If the moral argument has been the argument getting in the way, then it starts to sound like it’s the Prohibition, esp because of the likely increase in gambling regardless. And if old ladies choose to spend their money on nickel slots, at least it’s an activity they would be seeming to enjoy, which they probably earned the right to do. Also, plans for casinos usually come along with a set-aside for a gambling treatment… Read more »

Noway2016
Noway2016

Think WEED, yall. Weed. You want tax dollars? Weed! This is when I miss Jon Konop! Ask Charlie to give Jon a provisional pass.

bethebalance
bethebalance

I think GA (and most every state) will allow recreational use we the fed law gets changed, but I don’t see that happening with this admin, but you never know. I’m not gonna inhale and hold my breath about it.

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

Then it won’t hardly be doing you any good.

Will Durant
Will Durant

We have a company wanting to build a $2 BN property in Georgia and rather than expecting billion+ dollar tax concessions like Amazon they will add revenue to the state coffers from jump. What’s not to like?

Baker
Baker

The loss-leader strategy of concerts and other similar events and its impact on other venues gives me a lot of pause.

https://georgiaartscoalition.org/study

Not to mention I just have no confidence it will be a net benefit. Will most of the money spent there come from out of state? Or will Georgians just be shifting local spending to gigantic casino corporations?

https://www.cnn.com/2013/09/24/opinion/frum-casinos-harm/index.html

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

I’ve been to the MGM in Detroit. It, like a lot of things in Detroit, sucks. Same for the casinos in Atlantic City and pretty much every casino I’ve been to outside of Las Vegas.

drjay
drjay

if done well, which is obviously a big if–casinos seem like a nice potential entertainment option for either locals or tourists–and noone complains that the new publix is going to take away business from the food lion up the road…

Benevolus
Benevolus

True, but no one claims the publix is going to add $x to the economy either!

bethebalance
bethebalance

So, a rudimentary economic analysis would ask: to what degree are the casino and the other spending substitute goods? I.e., what extent would spending on the casino just replace spending on competing goods? If you’re talking about a meal at a restaurant, perhaps they are substitute goods. Although it’s reasonable to think that Buckhead dining is a different market niche than what the casino would be offering. I might think that it replaces more spending at the Golden Corral than Buckhead dining establishments. And you could also argue that folks would only eat out once they got out of the… Read more »