Voters would decide on legalization

Georgia Senate committee advances proposal for casino gambling, sports betting referendum

Reading time 1:22 min

Late Thursday, Georgia's Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee greenlit a proposed constitutional amendment calling for Georgia voters to decide on the legalization of both sports betting and casino gambling. Notably, all other gambling legislation currently under consideration by the General Assembly focuses solely on sports betting.

Senator Carden Summers, R-Cordele, the primary sponsor of Senate Resolution 538, highlighted that casinos could yield a more substantial economic impact compared to sports betting, Capitol Beat News Service reported. He emphasized that despite over 80,000 Georgians engaging in casino gambling at out-of-state venues annually, the associated jobs and tax revenue do not benefit Georgia directly.

Summers drew attention to the positive impact of legalized gambling, citing the funds generated by the Georgia Lottery for programs such as the HOPE Scholarship and pre-kindergarten initiatives.

Under Senate Resolution 538, 50% of the tax revenue generated by sports betting and casinos would be allocated to transportation improvements. Another 20% would be earmarked for pre-kindergarten and child-care programs. The remaining 30% would be evenly distributed among mental health and gambling addiction programs, rural health care, and Georgia’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Let’s put this issue to bed. I trust the people of Georgia to make this decision,” Summers urged members of the committee, as per the report.

Various local political and business leaders, including representatives from Columbus, Henry, and Liberty counties, expressed support for the bill. They highlighted the potential economic benefits of establishing five casinos throughout the state, as outlined in Senate Resolution 538.

However, Mike Griffin, the public affairs representative for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, cautioned against focusing solely on the economic advantages of legalized gambling. He raised concerns about the potential social costs, including an increase in addictive gambling, sex trafficking, and suicide if casinos were to be introduced.

We can’t let money be the reason we do everything. We can’t let money be the ultimate moral standard,” Griffin was quoted as saying in the report.

The resolution is now set to move to the Senate Rules Committee for scheduling a floor vote.

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