Developer Sets Sights On 2022 For Georgia Casino Legalization With Up To Four Sites In Mind

Written By Derek Helling on April 16, 2021

Casino gaming in Georgia will remain illegal for at least another year. And there’s no guarantee that anything will change on that front in 2022.

But that hasn’t deterred developer Rick Lackey. Lackey is determined to not let officials in Atlanta forget the issue.

He has a vested interest in such a shift in gambling law in the Peach State. If he gets his way, Georgians across the state could live relatively close to a gambling facility in the future. Just how far into the future that might be is a matter of debate.

What Lackey has in the works for Georgia casino gaming

According to Mike Ellis of the Greenville News, Lackey is going to continue negotiations with lawmakers and casino operators. He hopes that as soon as 2022, the state will expand legal gambling options to include brick-and-mortar casinos in Georgia.

Lackey expects potential operators to put pen to paper to prove their interest soon. However, he has been mum so far about who those potential operators might be. On the subject of where GA casinos might land, Lackey is quite transparent.

He said he has a total of 5,000 acres in the state under listing contracts. In real estate terms, that is a contract between a broker and the owner of a property. It gives the broker the authority to act on the owner’s behalf in the property’s sale. That acreage is spread across different parts of Georgia, including:

  • Along the Florida border
  • In/near Atlanta, the state’s capital
  • On Lake Hartwell near the South Carolina border
  • Right on the Atlantic Coast

Further details are only available about the Lake Hartwell site at this time. That plot contains about 500 acres right off I-85. The plans include a casino, golf course, hotel, residential areas and retail space. An estimate of the development cost is $300 million.

Naturally, all of this is completely contingent upon votes going Lackey’s way. That will probably require approval from more than just a majority of the 236 members of the GA legislature.

The path to legalization for GA casinos

The most likely course of action to green light casinos in Georgia is a constitutional amendment proposal. That was how the Georgia Lottery came to fruition in 1992. It was also the thrust of an attempt to legalize online sports betting this year.

That is an arduous path, though. Both chambers of the legislature must approve such a proposal by a supermajority (2/3). Then, it must also get the sign-off from the state’s governor. In the event that all takes place, then a simple majority (50% plus one) of the registered voters in the state have to give their nods as well.

That might prove too tall of an order in Georgia. Conservative interests traditionally oppose all and any expansion of legal gambling. Additionally, the sports betting package of bills that made it through the Senate this year didn’t touch the issue of casino gaming.

Lackey spun that as a positive, though. He sees future years as a chance for Georgia to expand gambling in a way that would include casino gaming and sports betting in one shot. The ability to offer retail sports betting would certainly make GA casinos more attractive for developers.

In turn, that would also make the acreage Lackey holds more valuable. There’s no denying that Lackey has a vested interest here, as he isn’t bashful about lobbying for it. The question is whether his efforts will prove sufficient anytime soon.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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