NO To This Question Of Casino Gambling

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

“Should Georgia have casino gambling with funds going to education?”

There’s an old joke where a man asks a woman at a bar if she’ll sleep with him for one million dollars.  She grins a bit and says yes.  He then asks would she sleep with him for one hundred dollars and she angrily exclaims “what kind of woman do you think I am?”  He grins and replies “Ma’am, we’ve already established that. Now we’re just negotiating the price.”

“Should Georgia have casino gambling” is the question that determines what kind of state we’re going to be.  “with funds going to education” is just there to help determine the price.

The gaming industry is not like others sought for economic development.  The areas outside casinos are often desolate, as the casino operators are very good at keeping each dollar within the establishment.  There is little left over for other businesses nearby to thrive symbiotically.

For a casino to add net value to the state, it must derive its income from tourists more than it does from local residents. Otherwise it is just another tax taking money from Georgia’s private sector and moving it under state control. The casino plan behind this ballot question indicates the latter is likely to be the case.

While the actual events that led to this question appearing on the Georgia GOP ballot are still a bit of a mystery, the intentions of the question are not.  Dan O’Leary is a well connected developer who has been attempting to use the Georgia Lottery Board’s charter to bring a casino to Georgia for years.  His original plan was to convert Underground Atlanta into a convention district video gaming parlor.  He is now focused on a site adjacent to I-85 in Gwinnett County.  Savannah and Jekyll Island have also been mentioned as possible locations.

Politicians need political cover to look the other way and allow the lottery board to authorize the extension of their franchise.  If limited to video table games, no vote of the General Assembly or the people of Georgia is required.  Thus, the question is not designed to bring a world class casino to Georgia that would help anchor Atlanta or Savannah as a tourist destination, but instead is designed to allow for an arcade for adults to prey upon locals and suck up additional money for the University System of Georgia via the HOPE scholarship.

Were this question about allowing for true private sector gaming that would allow for world class casino attractions, perhaps my vote would be different.  I enjoy playing blackjack and find nothing inherently wrong with a well regulated gaming industry.

While that is the vision that is being offered Georgians, this referendum is little more than an attempt to paper over a file to allow a rent-seeking developer to use Georgia’s lottery monopoly for his personal benefit.

Like so many issues of Georgia public policy today, the fundamentals of the question at hand are clouded by why the question is being asked and who is actually asking the question.  Whether it is T-SPLOST, ethics, or casino gambling, everyday Georgians are rightfully coming to realize that the question isn’t about who we are, but rather will we as a people go along funding a connected class of Georgians who operate much like members of the world’s oldest profession.

Voting yes on this question isn’t really about whether casinos should be allowed to operate in Georgia.  The political reality of this question should mandate that its wording be “Do you wish to give political cover for the Governor to reverse a campaign pledge and look the other way while his appointed Georgia Lottery board grants an exclusive gambling franchise to a well connected developer”. 

That is the question Georgians are actually being asked.  The future of the HOPE scholarship is being dangled in front of us as the price.

If Georgians don’t want casino gambling, then voting no is an easy answer.  Those that do need to pause before voting yes.  Once a monopoly for video gambling is extended to Georgia Lottery Corp, there will never be true casino gambling (or horse racing) in Georgia.  The state will enjoy a new source of tax revenue, and they will never allow a competitor into this playing field.

Thus, if you’re opposed to gambling vote no.  If you want casino gambling or horse racing in Georgia, vote no.  If you want our current crop of leaders and their sycophantic business interests to have one additional source of cash flow to tap into so that a well connected few can profit from yet another government granted monopoly franchise, then and only then should you vote yes to this question.


  1. Max Power says:

    First let me say that I don’t gamble. I’m too cheap. But I fully support legalized gambling, what I can’t support is another state sponsored gambling monopoly. If you want casinos in Georgia, fine open it up to everyone, if not don’t do it.

    • gabefair says:

      But should money for education and scholarships be dependent upon the creation of a new industry?

  2. xdog says:

    When they say legalized gambling, what they appear to mean is a hangar full of slots and a bar serving fountain drinks and cellophane sandwiches. That doesn’t interest me.

    Now if they’re interested in overseeing a legitimate sports book, a poker room, some 21 tables and a few roulette wheels, with decent bar and restaurant facilities backing them, then I’m down. So would be a lot of other Georgians, not to mention Alabamians, Tenneseeans and Carolingians.

    • Max Power says:

      Harrahs Cherokee is getting real casino games this fall so maybe not so many Carolingians.

  3. IndyInjun says:

    “….the question isn’t about who we are, but rather will we as a people go along funding a connected class of Georgians who operate much like members of the world’s oldest profession.”

    Amen and that is why I voted “No.”

  4. Three Jack says:

    “Were this question about allowing for true private sector gaming that would allow for world class casino attractions, perhaps my vote would be different. I enjoy playing blackjack and find nothing inherently wrong with a well regulated gaming industry.”

    Except for the regulated part, agreed. Just like so many other cases, it is amazing that we the citizens must seek approval from an electoral body to gamble.

    • benevolus says:

      We elected representative at some time in the past who (theoretically) expressed our popular will by outlawing it.

  5. seenbetrdayz says:

    If you educate people on how to gamble, this could be a self-sustaining proposition.

  6. Bob Loblaw says:

    If you have ever been to Dover Downs, this is not what you want for “casino gambling to fund education” in Georgia. Video Lottery Terminals, or VLTs, are just like sitting in front of the scratch off card vending machines, feeding it dollars and selecting cards. Also, when the “Underground” Project was under consideration, the Letter of Intent had it where O’Leary wouldn’t have a competitor for a 150 mile radius around Underground. That’s all points north, east and west.

    If you have been to the Mississippi Delta, where, quite a lot of economic development has exploded around the gaming industry, you will find, if you want to support expanded gaming, the way to do it.

    Just don’t take 15 years to realize that the locusts will not come. Destination resort gaming along Georgia’s coast and south of the ATL airport can be sustained. Don’t make deals with tribes like in Connecticut. Do not cede sovereignty.

    Georgia could be the next destination resort gaming experience. Or, maybe we’ll watch our sister state’s in the south piecemeal their way to where Mississippi proved years ago that gaming can develop tourism and improve the quality of life for folks who live in and will move to the areas.

      • Bob Loblaw says:

        It is horrible. Biloxi, the Coastal areas, do well. Tunica is a dump, but its not bad for Mississippi. I think a lot of folks pass up Vicksburg coming in from Texas and most folks don’t pass the other gaming towns to go to Vicksburg.

  7. The chances of finding me in front of a video lottery terminal or a slot machine are slim to none. I enjoy playing roulette or blackjack or poker, but am pretty much limited to that when I’m out of town. For instance, I’ll probably swing by the Falls Resort and Casino next month while I’m in Canada on business. As for horse racing, I’ll probably also swing by the harness racing track in Sudbury up there. But so long as Georgia doesn’t want real casinos or parimutuel betting on horse racing, the only gambling proceeds they’ll get from me are from the occasional purchase of a lottery ticket here and there.

  8. James says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head here. I wouldn’t be opposed to awarding charters to well-established casino operators who agree to pay a significant portion of their revenues (key word-significant) towards HOPE. The tradeoff is that, in return for significant payments to HOPE, the operators get a monopoly on casino-style gambling in Georgia.

    Alas, it won’t happen in Georgia. We’ll end up giving casino-style gambling charters to a few well-connected and out-of-depth developers and will be lucky to see any of the proceeds.

  9. GaSuperman says:

    IMHO a lot of erroneous information in today’s posts. Not surprising, as we often think we know more than we do and having all the facts is seldom at our disposal. For me, this boils down to – do we let people choose how to use their entertainment $ and do we keep the HOPE and Pre-K programs healthy. There are lots of ways to implement gaming in a state but none that save HOPE at the same time. I applaud the tenacity of Mr. O’Leary in the face of opposition to continue to push forward. Without that resolve, our leaders are on a path to let HOPE and Pre-K fail. He is committed to a first class entertainment destination that not only includes the gaming, but a 4 star hotel, performance venue and fine dining and retail. The local area seems to want the development. And without a big idea there, it will just be more of the same mediocrity.

    Everyone seems to have a better idea. But none are as well developed as what he has shared. The great is lost in search of the perfect. With his proposal we don’t have to wait on a state referendum (which would delay starting beyond 2014 at the earliest), we don’t have to allow HOPE to diminish below 50% of tuition, lots of new jobs are created and $ that Georgians are taking elsewhere stay here in our economy.

    Sure, you have a developer that stands to do well of the project. But I haven’t seen anyone else that has invested as much time as Mr. O’Leary to shape this or willing to take the risk to build it. Let’s stop criticizing and support some bold thinking. Perfect? No. But pretty damn good. And a giant step forward for our lagging state.

  10. objective says:

    Thanks, Charlie, for bringing out some of the gritty on this.
    I was a bit uneducated on the details of the proposal.

    The only thing can share is my personal experience, growing up near and working in a horse race track (a good one, too, in Saratoga, NY).
    An overarching fact is that Saratoga was able to give itslf a floor of economic stability with just one months’ worth of quality horse racing (and a more frequent trotter track -this is where the riders sit in a chariot-like seat and the horses’ legs are tethered such that trotting is the only acceptabe gait) but then they expanded he harness racing to six weks, and worked on other year-round attractions., including a casino- a proper one with tables with green felt and such.
    they not only withstood the recession, but saw home values rise.
    so, attractions like these can be very good or a local area/region, but it needs to be done right.
    if you were to go the harness track on a given day, you would see a range of folks based on income. there is always the risk that gambing will create dependents, an that it will induce the poor to greater poverty. it will in fact induce the rich to less wealth as well. hardly anybody but a few owners win. but everyone was having a god time. and if a nice chunk of that money went to education, everyone would be winning too.
    but video games? that is low-rent. real low. predatory in a way.
    at least when you have a world-class facility, you have a range of wealth being spent, and in fact, it is the opposit of class warfare— all classes come together in their common ambition to lose money 🙂
    and a wider base of customers means more funds for education perhaps, and funds that can be set aside for rehabilitative programs for the truly troubled.
    if it’s done right, it can work. a casino by the airport atually makes a lot of sense.
    a race track? i have mixed feelings about, because those horses are put through a lot of pain–
    but perhaps there is a way to have ethical horse racing and gambling…

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