Adelson Joins the Race to Build a Casino in Georgia

Sheldon AdelsonSheldon Adelson was in Georgia yesterday to make his pitch for building a Las Vegas style casino in Atlanta – subject to legislation being passed.

Historically, [geolink href=””]Georgia[/geolink] is one of the most anti-gambling states in the US. Other than the state lottery, a handful of sanctioned charity events and a solitary casino cruise ship, there are no legal ways of having a bet if you live in the Peach State.

The few previous attempts to introduce legalized gambling in Georgia have been unsuccessful, but now support is gathering pace for legislation that would allow up to six commercial casinos – the revenues from which would go towards the state´s HOPE scholarship and pre-Kindergarten programs.

The Long Road to Commercial Casinos in Georgia

Recently the Senate Regulated Industries Committee approved the proposals in Senate Resolution 135 that would allow pari-mutuel betting on horseracing, and some politicians are keen to add casinos to the resolution to prop up the state´s dwindling education fund.

If there is any chance of commercial casinos being allowed in Georgia, the resolution has to gain a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and House before the proposals are put on the November 2016 ballot. Even then the proposals could be vetoed by Governor Nathan Deal, who is strongly opposed to any expansion of the existing legalized gambling.

Like Bees Round Honey (or insert a similar expression)

Despite commercial casinos still being a bit of a long shot in Georgia, it has not stopped several organizations from travelling to Atlanta to give their input on the proposals. Wynn´s, Boyd Gaming and Penn National are reported to have been scouting potential sites, and last week MGM CEO Jim Murren told the Senate Regulated Industries Committee that his company was prepared to make a billion-dollar investment in Atlanta.

It is no surprise that so many casinos are interested in getting a foothold in Georgia. Metropolitan Atlanta is seen as one of the last casino-free big markets in the country. There is also the possibility of a prime piece of real estate becoming available when the Atlanta Braves baseball team leave Turner Field next year. Mayor Kasim Reed has plans to convert the baseball park into student accommodation and athletic facilities, but said he will consider other options – if enough money appears on the table.

Talking of Money …

Just as the debate over commercial casinos is warming up, who should appear in Atlanta but mister money man himself, Sheldon Adelson. Having had to abandon his pursuit of a luxury casino resort in Florida (heads-up to our friends at PokerRealMoney for that gem), Adelson is hoping to recover the millions he paid to lobbyists in Florida by venturing into Atlanta.

However, rather than pitching to the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, Adelson went straight to the top (or nearly the top) and had a meeting yesterday with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston. The outcome of the meeting was not disclosed, and all that Ralston´s spokesman would reveal was that casinos were not the only topic of conversation.

Public Not so Keen on Expansion of Gambling in Georgia

In order for Sheldon Adelson to get his way, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome – an anti-gambling governor, a mayor that is already committed to much-needed student accommodation and the general public. The general public will have a say in the 2016 ballot and, judging by some of the comments in online newspapers reporting his visit, it is not going to be the words that Sheldon Adelson and other casino executives want to hear.

From yesterday´s “Atlanta Journal Constitution” an angry reader writes:

Too many people are being conned into thinking Atlanta will become the Vegas of the south. Vegas established itself when there was no competition and its industry has casinos at its base. The market is now flooded and Atlanta will never rival Vegas in tourist dollars. Atlanta will become more like the bankrupt Atlantic City. 10 years of prosperity for the few in exchange for decades of blight for the public. No thanks.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett