In 2012, Harrah’s Cherokee continued its quest to become a full-service, Las Vegas-style casino resort with the addition of live table games and the opening of a World Series of Poker room.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Effort to put casino question to Georgia voters sails through House panel

A day after getting the House speaker’s tentative blessing, a proposal to ask Georgians if they believe the state should allow casino gambling could be headed for floor debate as soon as next week.

It’s believed to be the furthest an attempt to expand gambling has moved through the Legislature since lawmakers voted to allow the creation of the Georgia Lottery 27 years ago.

The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee on Friday unanimously approved a proposal from its chairman, Savannah Republican state Rep. Ron Stephens, that would ask Georgia voters to decide if they want to allow casino gambling. 

House Resolution 327 would ask voters during the November 2020 election if they believed the state’s Constitution should be amended to allow “licensed destination resort facilities where casino gaming is permitted.”

Tax and licensing revenues would be directed to bolster the Georgia Lottery-funded HOPE Scholarship.

“This bill does one thing and one thing only,” Stephens said. 
“It allows the public to finally make a decision on whether they want to have destination (gaming) resorts or not.”

The move comes at the end of a week where the state’s top three politicians signaled they would allow Georgians to decide the future of gaming in the state.

Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston all said this week that while they don’t personally support gambling, they they won’t stand in the way of the constitutional amendment.

In years past, both Gov. Nathan Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle — who left office in January — expressed opposition to casino gambling.

For the past eight years, Stephens said he has worked to bring a version of casino gambling to Georgia. Shortly before voting on the proposal, State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, quoted a soul singer to express his support.

“There’s an old song from the ‘60s that Sam Cooke used to sing — it’s been a long time coming,” Williams said. “I think a change is going to come. “ 

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