After Massachusetts officially entered the casino industry earlier this year, the race has been on to discover which state would be the next to follow suit. If recent news is any indication, Georgia looks to be the front runner to claim the title. The Peach State’s lawmakers have been scrambling to find a source of income large enough to preserve its HOPE Scholarship program for months, and the idea of legalizing casinos, particularly in the state capital of Atlanta, is gaining steam. According to a recent report, legislators are currently considering a constitutional amendment that would allow six licensed casinos to be constructed around the state, with two operating in metro Atlanta.
The news followed a recently completed market analysis by MGM Resorts International, which determined that the Atlanta market could easily support a new $1 billion casino resort. As home to the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and a host of popular tourist attractions, this determination should come as no surprise. In particular, the report highlighted the city’s established infrastructure as a catalyst to the success of future resorts.
For taxpayers in Georgia, the proposition seems to be a win-win. In addition to bolstering the state’s attractive tourism market, new resorts would add millions of dollars in upfront licensing fees to its coffers and a 12 percent tax on all gaming revenue to help fund educational programs. The Atlanta casinos would reportedly require no public financing or incentives, but would create a wealth of jobs for local citizens.
MGM Resorts is eager to bring the proposed casino to fruition. The casino giant has indicated that a resort similar to the upcoming $1.3 billion MGM National Harbor resort near Washington, D.C. could be constructed in metro Atlanta if legalization measures are passed and proper licensing is secured. However, MGM is hardly the only developer interested in the viable Georgia market. While still in the early stages, Atlanta’s ideal market conditions would make it of interest to most, if not all, major casino developers.
In order to get the casino bill on a statewide ballot, Georgia lawmakers in both the House and Senate will need to approve the measure by a two-thirds majority vote. If successful, voters in each region of the state would then be free to decide if they want a casino in their areas.
While many casinos promise benefits to educational funding, new casinos in Georgia could provide direct assistance to efforts to save the state’s HOPE Scholarship program. Through this program, Georgia residents who have demonstrated academic achievement are eligible for money to assist them with their educational costs while attending HOPE eligible post-secondary institutions located in the state.
With the issue still in debate, all eyes in the casino industry are firmly locked on the situation in Georgia. If approved, the market could prove to be a game changer for casino developers, as they continue to expand upon the presence of gaming options throughout the country. For residents of the Peach State, the potential benefits could be too good to pass up!