Georgia continues debating over Legal Casinos

One of the hottest issues in Georgia right now is whether or not casino gaming should be legalized in the Peach State.

Typically very conservative, Georgia has resisted the urge to add casinos at a time when many other states across the U.S. are doing so. However, state lawmakers are looking for a way to keep the HOPE scholarship, which rewards students with financial assistance in degree, diploma, and certificate programs at eligible Georgia public and private universities.

Legalizing casinos in Georgia would be a great way to accomplish this goal. But the big problem is that Governor Nathan Deal has made it clear that he’s in strong opposition to casino gaming. So an Atlanta-based NBC affiliate, 11Alive, decided to investigate on what casinos would do for Georgia.

Their investigation uncovered that Tunica County, Mississippi has revitalized their town ever since instituting casinos. Once known as the poorest county in America, Tunica has been booming ever since allowing casino gaming.

“You had this remarkable thing where you had this rural county that had more new jobs than it had people,” said Dr. Arthur Cosby of Mississippi State University. Cosby added that the end result was an “accidental” billion-dollar-a-year industry.

“There was no casinos in lots of the geographic areas around Tunica at that time,” he said. “So they got a huge customer base that no one anticipated.”

Despite Tunica’s initial success story, they have struggled in recent times due to regional casinos springing up across America. 35 states now have casino gaming, including many of the states surrounding Mississippi and Georgia. Because of this casino boom, Tunica has seen their gaming revenue cut in half.

This leaves the Peach State with an even tougher decision since they would be legalizing casinos at a time when the gaming market is becoming quite saturated.

But on the other hand, revenue projections are around $5 billion in “annual impact,” or the equivalent to hosting the Summer Olympic Games every year. And if they don’t legalize casinos, this would mean an estimated $470 million going to out-of-state casinos.

So when the time comes, Georgia voters will have to decide whether keeping gambling money in state is worth becoming just another casino hub in an already crowded market.