It really looked like 2020 was going to be the year that Georgia passed legislation for gambling in the state. Legislation was under consideration and all signs pointed to quick movement and approval. However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed all that. In late 2020, a panel of the House was able to pass a resolution to allow casino gambling, as well as sports betting and horse racing in the state, but it did not move further. Now that the legislature looks different in 2021, will efforts to see gambling expand in the state finally come to fruition?
Pushing This Year
Now that 2021 has begun, gambling proponents are already trying to figure out how they can get ahead this year. Proponents have spent several years trying to see legislation approved to bring the decision to the residents of the state. The only option currently offered in the state right now is the lottery.
With an expansion the state would be able to provide new jobs as well as more money to the HOPE scholarship fund. The fund is currently operating based on funds from the lottery. With additional gaming options, even more money could be contributed to help young students.
Times are changing in Georgia politically and this could be beneficial to the overall outcome of legislative efforts regarding gambling. Conservatives typically shy away from talk involving any type of gambling expansion. Of course, republican leaders are considered conservatives. This year, voters in Georgia decided to add two new democratic senators to legislature instead of voting republican yet again.
With Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in the Senate, it could put enough progressive spin in the mix to help legislation move forward. Proponents mainly want to see legislation added to the ballot so the people of the state can vote and this should be something that every lawmaker would agree too, no matter the party affiliation.
Conservative Groups Against an Expansion
The ongoing effort to expand gambling in the state has also seen opponents stay at the forefront, stating why they disagree with the services. The Georgia Baptist Mission Board has been strongly opposed to the idea of gambling additions to the state. The group feels the negatives far outweigh the positives.
Representative Wes Cantrell has been strongly opposed to a gambling expansion in the state. As a republican, he feels that any expansion will lead to an increase in crime as well as addiction. Apparently, the rep feels that all forms of casino gaming have a negative effect.
One other problem that has arisen in passing such legislation involves where the tax money should go. Some lawmakers feel that the funds should be used to pay for in-state tuition. Other lawmakers want to be able to use the funds for the health care system.
We will watch closely this year as any legislative efforts develop. The state is certainly in need of revenues, just like all the others in the US, and a gambling expansion would be one way in which to bring in a new source of revenues.