Numerous industry-leading gaming companies recently formed a coalition in hopes to lobby Georgia lawmakers to legalize gambling ahead of the next state legislative session in January 2022.
Among the major players in the group are Caesars Entertainment, Wynn Resorts, Hard Rock Inc. and Bally’s Corp. In total, 16 members comprise the coalition.
The companies see Georgia as a state rife with opportunity in the ever-growing gambling industry. Certainly, they are eager to get things rolling as soon as possible to begin development on several casino and resort projects within the state.
What could casinos in Georgia look like?
According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, there are several potential sites for companies to develop their casinos should they successfully lobby state lawmakers.
Notable sites in and around Atlanta include CNN Center, Centennial Yards and Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton. The speedway site, planned by Foxwoods, would create a new casino as part of a grandiose resort surrounding the track. The project expects to cost around $1 billion.
Developer Rick Lackey, who has also lobbied the state legislature to legalize gambling, has additional sites in mind throughout the rest of the state. His plans include casinos built near the Atlantic Coast, the Florida border and on Lake Hartwell.
The Lake Hartwell site, like the Atlanta Motor Speedway project, is reported to be more all-encompassing and include a golf course, hotel and retail spaces.
The theme of a resort rather than solely a casino is present among many of the companies looking at Georgia. The idea is to offer a comprehensive entertainment experience rather than just a place to gamble.
What is next for Georgia’s gambling hopes?
The future of gambling expansion in Georgia remains murky. Yet the amount of support for the cause, and therefore pressure on lawmakers, is becoming too much to ignore.
The economic and social benefits to the state would be profound, according to Lackey. The developer noted that denying such expansion would “be a vote against $5 billion in brick-and-mortar construction and 50,000 new jobs in Georgia.”
Gambling bills have been historically tough to garner support for in the Republican-led Georgia legislature. Yet the economic benefit of these casino projects may be the tipping point for legislators.
It is important to note, however, that Georgia casinos are just one aspect of legalized gambling that supporters of the cause hope to legalize.
Legal sports betting in the state is another issue entirely that would have to be introduced and voted on in the state legislature. In April 2021, the state legislature failed to pass sports betting bills that were on the table.
Stakeholders continue to push for expanded gambling in Georgia
Approval for casinos would certainly be a large step, but sports betting is another aspect of gambling that could thrive. After all, Georgia features four professional sports teams, two power five college athletics programs, a NASCAR track and Augusta National.
Small steps have been made on that front since April, with FanDuel recently gaining a presence in Atlanta by creating a new technology hub in Ponce City Market. This could allow FanDuel to get a foot in the door during deliberations on any future sports betting bills.
Lackey hopes a future bill will package both issues. This would make the planned casinos even more valuable.
Expanding legal gambling in Georgia has featured little progress. But this coalition could mount enough pressure to change that.
There’s no telling what will happen come January. But it is getting harder and harder for state lawmakers to keep refuting this issue.