The MGM National Harbor resort in Oxon Hill, Md., just outside of Washington, D.C., is seen as a model for what MGM Resorts International could build in Georgia if Las Vegas-style gambling is legalized in the state. The $1.4 billion complex includes a 308-room hotel, 12 eateries, a 125,000-square-foot casino floor, retail and a 3,000-seat theater. The resort opens in December 2016. J. Scott Trubey/
Photo: J. Scott Trubey/STAFF
Photo: J. Scott Trubey/STAFF

Casino companies show some Georgia candidates the money 

Casino giants hoping to bring a Las Vegas-style resort to Atlanta are chipping in to Georgia political campaigns. 

MGM Resorts International, which envisions a $1 billion-plus complex in Atlanta, was among the major donors to elected officials and candidates in campaign disclosures filed this week.

The casino firm and its executives contributed at least $22,000 to former state Rep. Stacey Evans and another $14,000 to ex-House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. 

The two are dueling for the Democratic nomination for governor, and both have said they are open to legalizing casinos so long as the new revenues are used to expand the lottery-funded HOPE scholarship. All five of the leading GOP contenders oppose casino gambling, as does Gov. Nathan Deal. 

Over the last year, MGM also splashed the pot with other contributions that included $10,000 to the Georgia House GOP Trust, $9,000 to the Democratic Party of Georgia, $1,000 to House Speaker David Ralston and $1,000 to the Georgia GOP Senatorial Committee. 

Other gambling firms have also anted up over the last year. 

The American Gaming Association gave $250 to Attorney General Chris Carr. And Boyd Gaming Corp. contributed to about a dozen legislative leaders, including Senate Pro Tem Butch Miller, Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, Ralston and House Majority Leader Jon Burns. 

The push for a constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling seems to have stalled this year, though its backers are still trying to build support. 

They pitch gambling as a shot in the arm to the HOPE scholarship and an economic development incentive. Opponents run the gamut from faith-based groups to business interests leery of the industry.

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