O’Leary has met with Gov. Nathan Deal and a host of other political and business leaders. He has talked about the 2,500 jobs it would create and the $350 million the video lottery terminals could generate for the state’s HOPE college scholarship and pre-k education programs, which face serious financial shortages.
He has pledged to donate land for an on-site transit station if state officials approve his plans. He has even enlisted the help of University of Georgia icon Herschel Walker, who has said he’ll open a sports bar and restaurant on site if the plan moves forward.
Despite those efforts, O’Leary still faces hurdles. The governor’s opposition and the Georgia Lottery Board’s wariness are the predominant obstacles.
But there’s also this: While a narrow majority of Georgia Republicans supported casino gambling in the July primary election, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll of 625 metro Atlanta residents that same month found a majority opposed “video-style slot machines.”
Despite the challenges, O’Leary said he gives the project a “100 percent” chance of happening. But he said it needs visible public support.
“The lottery board, the elected officials, they need to see that citizens want this,” he said. “They need to see that the business community wants this.”
Some local officials share O’Leary’s optimism. Chuck Warbington, executive director of the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District, which includes the proposed site, thinks there’s a good chance O’Leary’s plans will come to pass.
“It’s continuing to get support,” Warbington said. “At some point I think it will break loose. The HOPE [scholarship] issue is not going away.”