Casino gambling could provide an economic boost for the state of Georgia.
On Wednesday, residents of Columbus are expected to hear from a committee of state lawmakers who are exploring legalizing that industry in the state as a way of bolstering the state’s economic position. The lawmakers want to hear what residents think, too.
Rep. Alan Powell, a Republican from Hartwell, is co-chair of the House Special Committee on Economic Growth. He said legalizing gambling would bring jobs and more construction.
“And then on the revenue side, you’re talking about gross gaming taxes, that I have personally recommended,” he said. “If the people of Georgia do it, I’d like to see the bulk of that money go to healthcare in the state of Georgia.”
He said Georgia is losing out to bordering states that have casinos.
“They appeal to Georgia; they appeal to other areas that don’t have gambling, and people beat a trail up there. They run buses out of Atlanta,” Powell said.
Powell said if a statewide referendum on gambling were to pass, he’d want to require each county to then hold a local vote on whether to allow casinos.
Roger Tutterow, an economics professor at Kennesaw State, said the Georgia economy is doing fine. But he also noted that things have slowed a bit.
“In the last couple quarters, it appears to be, the Georgia economy is growing roughly in line with the national average,” he said.
Tutterow said budget cuts ordered by Gov. Brian Kemp would help protect the state in the case of an economic downturn.
As for the legalization of gambling, Tutterow said it would not only help Georgia generate revenue but also help diversify where the state gets its money.
“Rating agencies like to see states and municipalities where they have multiple revenue sources,” he said. “Because it means that if one area of the economy softens, it’s less likely to bring down state expenditures.”