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Gambling Expansion Legislation Moves Forward in Georgia

A gambling expansion effort has been taking place in the state of Georgia for quite some time. Lawmakers want to see an amendment placed on the ballot that would allow residents to decide if the state should expand their industry, to include such options as land-based casinos. Efforts are gaining ground, as earlier this week, a House panel approved legislation. The bill will now move forward for further consideration.

Details of the Movement

With the recent approval, the committee moved two amended measures forward. House Resolution 378 was approved, allowing voters if they felt that the constitution should be amended to allow sports betting, pari-mutuel betting and casinos.

This bill would also create a gaming commission that would oversee the new industry as a whole. House Bill 570 was also approved, and it would regulate gambling if the referendum were to pass into law.

During the vote, only two members were against the legislation, so the measure was able to move forward. One person who voted against the idea was Representative Bruce Williamson. He said that he does have confidence in the committee and Georgia legislature to put the necessary guardrails in place that will at least help the HOPE scholarship as it moves forward.

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Where the Money Will Go?

The proposed legislation will see funds generated from sports betting via the lottery go towards the HOPE scholarship fund. For revenues earned from sports betting not associated with the lottery, the money will go towards health insurance and health care needs.

Alan Powell, the House Regulated Industries Committee Chairman, pointed out that HB 570 is a draft of what gambling regulations could be. The regulations include licensing cost, where money will go for gambling addiction needs, as well as how casino and racetracks must be a multi-use property.

According to Powell, the enabling legislation is there for the purpose of discussion. It puts the idea out there for the residents of the state so they can see what is being talked about, such as resort destination casinos. There will be changes made in the future to the regulations and how the bill will eventually be set out.

The issue of gambling expansion has been debated in Georgia for years. Supporters want to see casinos added in the hopes of building on tourism and bringing in much-needed funds. In 2019, Governor Brian Kemp called for a cut to state spending, so supporters pushed their agenda to show how gambling would bring in a new stream of revenues.

Last summer, House Speaker David Ralston created a special committee that spent many months studying gambling. Hearings were held to discuss the option and supporters feel that they might have enough lawmakers on their side to see the measure move forward.

If the bill does make it to the ballot, there is a strong possibility that it will come to pass. Recent polls show that residents in Georgia are in favor and want to see the expansion take place.

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