Gambling To Top Georgia’s Legislative Agenda

Gaming chips sit stacked on the roulette table at Tioga Downs during the official opening of the new gaming floor on Friday, December 2, 2016, in Nichols, N.Y. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)
Credit Heather Ainsworth / Associated Press
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Supporters of legalizing casino gambling and pari-mutuel betting on horse racing in Georgia will bring some new talking points to the 2017 General Assembly session they didn’t have in 2016. 

According to this week’s Atlanta Business Chronicle, one is in the form of a study released in August predicting the lottery-funded HOPE Scholarships program could run out of money by 2028 without a new revenue stream.

A study by the Committee to Preserve HOPE Scholarships projected revenue available for HOPE scholarships still failing to keep pace with increasing demand for assistance due to enrollment growth at the state’s colleges and universities. Assuming annual increases of 7.5 percent in tuition and 2.5 percent annual lottery revenue growth, the study predicted HOPE — a program launched 23 years ago — could be running in the red in a little more than a decade.

But beyond the state-level benefit to HOPE, the report argues casinos would generate little in additional revenue on the local level. One of the study’s key conclusions is that most of the revenue likely to be derived from casinos would come from the local market rather than tourists.

As a result, it’s uncertain whether casino proceeds would be “new” money or simply a diversion of consumer spending away from local shops, restaurants and other forms of entertainment.

Arguments for and against legalized gambling likely will be front and center from the beginning of the 40-day 2017 legislative session, which starts Jan. 9.

Dave Williams covers government for Atlanta Business Chronicle.