Casinos are not presently legal in Georgia. Not yet, anyway. However, if casino gambling should ever come to the Peach State, Macon Mayor Lester Miller will be ready.
Miller recently made it known he would gladly consider the prospect of a new casino coming to Macon, should the state’s lawmakers make that a possibility.
Will Georgia lawmakers push casinos in 2022?
Miller expressed optimism that lawmakers will move ahead on casino gambling in Georgia in 2022.
He anticipates legislation proposing the introduction of four casinos and two racetracks in the state.
GA lawmakers have contemplated the possibility of expanded gambling in recent years, including adding casinos.
However, it has been difficult for proponents of the idea to marshal enough support for any proposed legislation to advance.
For any new gambling to become legal in Georgia, lawmakers must first approve a ballot referendum asking voters to decide whether they approve of a change.
From there, both the House and Senate would have to support a constitutional amendment with a two-thirds vote in favor required from both chambers.
While sports betting has been the primary focus of recent bills. In the past, there have been efforts to bring casinos to Georgia.
For example, in 2017 bills to add two casinos in the state appeared in both the House and the Senate.
However, Macon was not among the proposed cities to host the casinos.
Rather, one was earmarked for Atlanta and the other either for Augusta, Columbus, or Savannah.
Neither bill earned enough support to progress up the legislative ladder. The 2022 legislative session will be another chance for Georgians to make casinos a reality.
Macon Mall, a potential location for casino and hotel
Mayor Miller voiced his opinion in an interview with the Center for Collaborative Journalism, a group involving Mercer University and multiple media outlets including 13WMAZ in Macon.
The mayor was asked about how he envisioned the city of Macon responding if legislators were to bring casino gambling to the state.
He supports Macon in hosting a new gambling property. Specifically, he points to the Macon Mall and its currently unused space as a possible casino site. At 13WMAZ Miller said:
“Everybody in Macon that has been here for awhile has got memories of the Macon Mall. Things they’ve done, or people they’ve taken on dates.”
Miller states that a casino could fill one of the presently empty anchor stores in the mall. He noted with such a choice there is plenty of parking and space to add a hotel.
After opening in 1975, the two-level Macon Mall has seen many businesses vacate the property over recent years. Most recently, Macy’s left the property in 2020.
Currently, the entire lower level of the 1.1 million-square-foot mall is empty. Only Burlington Coat Factory remains open on the upper level.
A new casino could be a breath of air for a shrinking retail mall.
Exploring possibilities for dormant mall
Miller has had conversations with operators about the possibility of bringing casino gambling to Macon.
He insists he’ll need more information about what that might entail before fully advocating the idea.
“If it does come to Macon, I’m going to want to know where it’s going to be at, so to have the largest impact we would need to have,” said Miller.
The casino talk is part of the larger discussion in Macon regarding the future of the mall. Miller has been in contact with other commercial entities interested in moving in as well.
Additionally, the Board of Elections plans to relocate to the mall next year.