(The Center Square) — A state senator is expected to introduce legislation allowing Georgians to decide on a constitutional amendment allowing casino gambling, sports betting, and pari-mutuel wagering.
State Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, plans to drop his legislation on the first day of the legislative session starting next month. He said the initiative could bring in $900 million per year to the state, and half of the money would go into a freight and logistics fund for road, bridge and rail projects. In contrast, the remaining money would go toward rural health care, mental healthcare, gambling addiction and historically Black colleges and universities.
Expanding gambling in some capacity is hardly new in Georgia; legislators have debated various proposals for years. It begs the question: Is 2024 the year?
“Whether the proposed gambling expansion in Georgia is good or bad for taxpayers depends largely on one’s perspective,” Rick Chahal, a licensed paralegal and legal professional at Kahlon Law, told The Center Square via email. “From an economic standpoint, the initiative could generate significant revenue for the state, potentially reducing the tax burden on citizens and funding important infrastructure and healthcare initiatives.
“On the downside, it might lead to an increase in gambling addiction and associated social issues, potentially straining public resources.”
Collen Clark, a lawyer and founder of Schmidt & Clark LLP, said a gambling expansion in the state has several implications for the taxpayers. It could generate significant revenue for the state, create more economic opportunities for residents, reduce illegal and unregulated gambling and provide more consumer protection and responsible gambling measures.
“However, the expansion of gambling also has some potential drawbacks and challenges,” Clark said. “One of them is the moral and social impact of gambling on the society, especially on the vulnerable and addicted populations. Some opponents of the legislation argue that gambling could increase crime, poverty, and family breakdown and that the state should not promote or profit from such a harmful activity.
“Another challenge is the legal and constitutional aspect of the legislation,” Clark added. “Some experts contend that gambling expansion requires a constitutional amendment, which needs a two-thirds majority in both chambers of the Legislature and a voter referendum, while others claim that it can be done through a simple statute, which only needs a simple majority in both chambers.
“The debate over the legality and constitutionality of gambling expansion has been a major obstacle for the previous attempts to pass similar legislation in Georgia.”
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor