Gamblers in Georgia will continue heading out of state to satisfy their casino urges after legislators declined to bring casino legislation up for a vote.
Monday was ‘crossover day’ in Georgia, aka the deadline for legislation to garner approval in the state House of Representatives in order to be sent to the state Senate for further consideration. Rep. Ron Stephens’ HR 807 received a favorable not last week from the Regulated Industries Committee but the bill never made it to the House floor, effectively killing the measure for at least another year.
HR 807 had a chance to receive a House floor vote on Friday but Speaker David Ralston (pictured) postponed the vote while urging legislators to take the weekend to discuss the plan with their constituents. Ralston appears to have simply been playing for time, as he ended up denying the bill the chance of a floor vote on Monday, claiming that legislators had told him that the “faith community felt they had not been heard” on the casino question.
Gov. Nathan Deal was also on the ‘I’m agin it’ side, saying he doubted that casino gambling would “enhance the climate of the state.” Deal also expressed concern that casinos would reduce state lottery revenue.
HR 807 would have put a question on this November’s election ballot to allow voters to decide whether to amend the state constitution to permit the development of up to four casinos in the state. The state’s share of casino revenue would have gone to the HOPE education scholarship program, which has suffered from chronic underfunding in recent years.
The plan called for the Metro Georgia area to feature two casinos, a primary venue with a minimum investment of $1.25b and a secondary venue worth at least $750m. Major US casino operators including MGM Resorts and Las Vegas Sands had expressed great interest in an Atlanta-area casino, but none of that matters now.
There are a few legislative tricks that might have allowed HR 807 to go on, including a rule that allows House bills to be attached as amendments to Senate bills. However, the House leadership appears determined to throw out this baby with the bathwater, so don’t count on any Mr. Smith Goes To Washington happy endings.