Are Georgians willing to gamble on casinos for HOPE Scholarship?

There is a push underway to bring casinos to Georgia and the selling point is money for HOPE.

Tommy Dortch is former state director for U.S. Senator Sam Nunn and chairman emeritus of 100 Black Men of America, Inc. In this piece, he endorses a ballot referendum to allow casino resorts in Georgia, saying the taxes generated will help ensure the future of the HOPE Scholarship.

Using the preservation of HOPE as the incentive, a strong push is underway to bring casino resorts to Georgia. However, the AJC reported that a study paid for by downtown Atlanta’s top booster group raised questions about whether the resorts would be the cash cow proponents contend.

According to the AJC’s J. Scott Trubey:

Four casino resorts in Georgia could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue, but it is unclear how much would be new to the state and how much would be created by spending diverted from other parts of the economy, according to the report by hospitality consultants HLT Advisory and Horwath ATL.

The report concluded that the majority of visitors would be locals, not tourists, and that spending in casinos could “cannibalize” spending that might have gone to nearby restaurants, museums or concert halls and in turn undercut other state and local tax collections. The study was commissioned by Central Atlanta Progress, a downtown business coalition, in an attempt to provide independent data as lawmakers weigh the issue in the months ahead, said the group’s CEO, A.J. Robinson.

With that background, here is Dortch’s column in favor of casino resorts in Georgia:

By Tommy Dortch

Recent reports indicate the HOPE Scholarship is in trouble and, as it now stands, could very well run out of money in the coming years. The 2017 Georgia Assembly should act and give voters an opportunity to decide on a solution to funding HOPE.

That solution is to allow Georgians to decide for themselves whether destination casino resorts should be allowed in our state. The state of Georgia and metro Atlanta are losing out. Every day, Georgia citizens vote with their wallets when they travel to nearby casinos in Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina. It’s nearly impossible to miss the highway billboards beckoning us to casinos in these neighboring states. We’re facing not only a lost opportunity to generate taxes that support our children’s education but also a lost opportunity to create jobs and business opportunities for ourselves.

How much are we actually losing? Recent studies show that Georgia residents are now spending upwards of $600 million a year at these out-of-state casinos. Those are our HOPE dollars leaving the state. According to data from the American Gaming Association, the average casino in Mississippi has nine employees for every million dollars of casino revenue. That $600 million per year spent by Georgians at casinos in other states translates to a loss of more than 5,000 jobs right here.

A 2016 poll showed that 84 percent of Georgia voters want the chance to decide on the casino issue in a referendum. The poll was conducted in January by national polling organizations, McLaughlin & Associates and the Mellman Group. The same two companies found in a 2014 poll that 90 percent of Georgians have a favorable opinion of the HOPE Scholarship.

These two issues are linked: Recent legislation calling for a statewide referendum on allowing a limited number of destination casino resorts in Georgia requires the tax generated from these casinos to be put toward funding the HOPE Scholarship. An analysis released in early August provides data that shows that the general HOPE Scholarship fund could be out of money by the time today’s Pre-K student is in college.

We can stop that from happening, and chart a new course that preserves funding for our children’s education while providing an economic boom to Georgia’s economy that reaches far beyond that noble result.

If a high-quality destination casino resort were to be built in the Atlanta area, it would most assuredly create jobs for Georgians, who would then spend their money at shops, museums, movie theaters, and other local businesses. The projected investment of more than $1 billion in a destination casino resort in metro Atlanta would mean a significant number of construction jobs and other opportunities for Georgia.

Why do we want to continue investing in our neighbors? The resorts in Biloxi, Ms., are a popular destination for the Southeast region, especially Georgia residents. According to data from the Mississippi Gaming Commission, about a million Georgia residents go to casino resorts there every year, in addition to the more than 1.5 million visitors from Tennessee and South Carolina – states without resort gaming.

Why wouldn’t they prefer to come to a full-scale resort in metro Atlanta instead and experience everything else Georgia has to offer? Metro Atlanta’s tourism industry would benefit from a destination resort because it’s another world-class amenity to attract some of the 11 million international passengers who pass through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport every year, many of whom come from countries without destination casino resorts.

A higher-caliber destination resort will also draw lucrative conventions. Because of the entertainment offered in its resorts, Las Vegas is No. 1 in convention attendance every year. Atlanta currently competes with Orlando, Charlotte and Nashville for convention business. A destination resort in metro Atlanta can help solidify our place as the region’s premier convention destination.

If more people come to metro Atlanta and fewer people leave for North Carolina and beyond, the local economy benefits. And if the local economy benefits, we all win. But Georgia will continue losing unless the Georgia General Assembly passes a constitutional amendment giving the voters across the state an opportunity to decide if we want to invest in our communities, our economy and our future and solve the HOPE funding crisis with destination resorts.

 

Reader Comments 0

21 comments
AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

Atlanta is already a convention destination.  Enough of sending Georgians up to Cherokee or down to Biloxi to get their gambling (sorry, "gaming") in.  Let's get this casino ball rolling now.

Starik
Starik

Hope is an unadulterated good program. Expand it to a 2.5 GPA if possible.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

FIRST, ensure that the Lottery Corporation is putting in the FULL amount they are supposed to according to the law!  They have never, in these 23 YEARS, gotten around to it!  THEN, we can talk about casinos.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

When the AJC did a long piece on the future of HOPE on the 20th anniversary in 2013, the then president of the Georgia Student Finance Commission told us:


"We know HOPE is going to exist, but what it will look like 15 years out is unknown, " said Tracy Ireland, president of the Georgia Student FinanceCommission, which administers HOPE. "I understand what parents are thinking, I have a 6- and 9-year-old. All I can tell them is save, save, save."

kaelyn
kaelyn

No thank you. Casinos create more problems than they solve.

kaelyn
kaelyn

@ Astropig. I have firsthand knowledge of the Tunica casinos because I have friends and family living near them. The casinos brought a lot of jobs and revenue to the area in the beginning. However, the crime, prostitution, and addiction didn't take long to come to the surface. Now thousands have lost jobs and the money is drying up. We don't need the next Tunica or Atlantic City here in Georgia.

Starik
Starik

@kaelyn So put the casinos where we already have crime, prostitution and addiction. Build a fence to exclude the native crime, prostitution and addiction.

mgjones
mgjones

@kaelyn Do you really believe that the drugs and crime and prostitution was invented when the casinos came? Most of us know that it was already there. I think you and others like you just do not want to give people a chance at decent paying jobs-to keep them begging and in jail!

Starik
Starik

@mgjones @kaelyn Yes. Good jobs for Atlanta people, especially black people, if it's downtown.

newsphile
newsphile

@Astropig @Starik @mgjones @kaelyn How true that the big money is made by the owners.  And, yes, crime is already here.  However, venues such as casinos tend to create even more crime. 

kaelyn
kaelyn

Of course I know that crime existed before the casinos arrived. You add gambling and drinking to the equation and the crime increases. That's a no brainer. I'm all for people having decent paying jobs. I have family members who worked at the Tunica casinos. They were great while they lasted, but those jobs are GONE now.

redweather
redweather

From the Georgia Lottery website:  "In fiscal year 2015, the GLC transferred $980,501,000 to the Lottery for Education Account – that’s $2.7 million (on average) raised every day for HOPE & Pre-K. "

I would love to see an accounting of just how that pot of money is being spent.

Astropig
Astropig

It's funny that this issue should come up at this time.Driving down I-75 with AstroWife just last week,I turned to her and asked "Wouldn't it be wonderful if organized crime and a business model that preys on the poor and stupid (and elderly) would come to Georgia and corrupt OUR legislature like those other southern states?"


Amazingly,she didn't agree with me.



Astropig
Astropig

@TruthReallyHurts


Every legislature is corrupt to one degree or another.Every.Last.One.


But this is a dumb idea from a purely dollars and cents perspective.We'd be trading a system that only pays out (very roughly) 63 cents of every dollar for one that has to pay out in the 92-97% range to stay competitive.


The legal gaming market is saturated already.What the above piece doesn't tell you is that a couple of casinos in Mississippi have shut down because of the glut, and that Maryland has experienced a decrease in lottery ticket sales after allowing table games in Baltimore.But that's not the worst part...


...The worst part is that if this is approved,the state will almost certainly give giant tax breaks to the mega-corps that control casino gambling to "incentivize" their building in the states preferred location(s).(Which will just coincidentally be owned by a lawmaker or a future governor or their family or their cronies).


There is no pie in the sky.There is no free lunch.This is a dumb idea that needs to be sent straight to the dustbin.

TruthReallyHurts
TruthReallyHurts

As if our state legislature isn't already corrupt as it is.

cyadra
cyadra

@Astropig @TruthReallyHurts Herein lies the problem. Casinos are not the "solution" to everyone's problems. They are an industry just like any other industry.


Is gambling any more dangerous then someone sitting in their underwear on a computer and putting all of their money on a stock that plummets in value? If you own a 401K or a retirement account, you are gambling whether you like it or not.A stock market "crash" is probably worse than a cold streak at a roulette table.


 How arrogant of the government and others to tell me that I can buy all the lottery tickets I want with a rate of return of less than 1%, or I can throw all my money away on the stock market, but I can't bet on a hand of black jack were if I play intelligently I would have an advantage. 


Here is another tip to us degenerates who like to gamble. If you live in Atlanta, you can get $30 flights to Vegas each way, much cheaper and nicer than driving to Mississippi. 


Remember, casinos are an industry they are no more a solution than the manufacturing industry, the farming industry, tech industry, etc. 



Astropig
Astropig

@cyadra @Astropig @TruthReallyHurts


"Here is another tip to us degenerates who like to gamble. If you live in Atlanta, you can get $30 flights to Vegas each way, much cheaper and nicer than driving to Mississipp"


Which is exactly what people will continue to do.Why play in some bush league half arsed backyard carnival when you can go to a gambling mecca for less than what a tank of gas will cost?Again, the industry is glutted with competition.That means that Vegas will start giving flights away if it has to to keep all of those low wage casino workers employed,for political reasons,if nothing else.


This train left the station a looooonnnnngggg time ago.Its way too late to jump into the gaming wars and have any hope of carving out a niche.