Casinos, sports betting, horse racing could rake in billions, if Georgia lawmakers approve

ATLANTA -- It's a constitutional amendment that if Georgia voters approve, could provide an estimated billion dollars in additional revenue for the state.

Lawmakers discussed on Thursday other forms of gambling revenue in addition to the state lottery.

At the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Henry County Thursday, officials held a public hearing regarding a constitutional amendment on allowing casino gambling, sports betting, and horse racing in Georgia.

"When you hear that possibly $1 billion could be added to the state's treasury to be going towards healthcare and to be going towards education, it certainly peaks your interest as to what exactly could happen," Rep. Rick Williams says.

The Georgia House of Representatives Special Committee on Economic Growth -- which has been exploring ways of creating or changing state revenue streams -- heard public comments and discussed how such an amendment could affect the state.

Citizens had a lot to say:

"Georgia is missing the opportunity because I'm afraid that...the government is afraid of losing money from the taxes because they've got the only gambling going on in the state right now."
"Is there any evidence been brought to you about how much potential taxes are lost every year to online gambling and offshore gambling, as opposed to the economic impact that could've had on a local economy?"

Representative Dale Washburn says exactly how the additional gambling-type revenue that gets generated would be dispersed -- and who would benefit -- is up for discussion. Adding revenue would also come in several other different forms.

"Obviously, people working and earning more income tax revenue. You've got the property taxes in the locations where these facilities would come," he says.

Allowing casino gambling is a move that Atlanta Motor Speedway President Ed Clark supports. He even released a concept design and plan last October plan for an entertainment complex at the speedway that would feature, in addition to a casino, a water park, theme park, outdoor mall, restaurants, hotels and more.

"It would be something that's here for both the local citizens, the regional citizens and people from out of state to some in here and enjoy," says Clark.

Before you would be able to vote on the constitutional amendment, state lawmakers have to vote on whether or not to even let you vote on it.

The 2020 legislative session will convene at 10 a.m. on Monday, January 13.

It's not clear when this issue will be taken up.

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