Georgia casino legalization efforts have failed in each of the previous two legislative sessions. But gaming companies aren’t folding on their ambitions to develop large-scale integrated resorts in the Peach State.
Several of the world’s biggest players in the global gaming industry, including Wynn Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and Hard Rock International, are focusing their lobbying efforts on Georgia. The Atlanta Business Chronicle broke the news that the casino firms are fusing their campaign energies to win over state lawmakers in the Atlanta capital.
Additional casino operators involved in the political action committee are said to be Penn National Gaming, Bally’s Corporation, and Foxwoods Resort Casino.
US casino groups have been searching for untapped commercial gaming markets. Along with Georgia, Texas and Florida have been heavily targeted.
Georgia is attractive for a variety of reasons. The state’s population has increased in every decade since 1790, with Georgia today counting more than 10.8 million people as residents. That makes it the seventh- most populated state in the US.
Georgia also has the world’s busiest airport — Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, 110.5 million people traveled through the air terminal.
Georgia is additionally a sports-obsessed state. It’s home to the NFL Falcons, MLB Braves, and NBA Hawks. Augusta, Ga., hosts the Masters golf tournament annually, and the Georgia Bulldogs and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets respectively compete in the SEC and ACC collegiate conferences.
Atlanta Motor Speedway features two annual NASCAR Cup Series races. And the track, located in Hampton some 20 miles south of the downtown capital, wants to transform the venue into an entertainment destination with a casino and integrated resort.
Speedway Motorsports, the owner of the facility, has partnered with Foxwoods to propose a $1 billion investment. Developers say the project, if gaming would become legal in Georgia, would bring the area a 700-room hotel, 85,000-square-foot casino, a convention center, an 11,000-seat concert venue, numerous restaurants, a 300,000-square-foot mall, a movie theater, a 400-unit timeshare complex, and a theme park.
Foxwoods is owned and operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. The Connecticut Native American group is far less invested outside its home state than its neighboring Mohegan Tribe.
The Georgia General Assembly concluded its 2021 legislative session at the end of March. When it reconvenes in January of 2022, pro-gaming and sports betting advocates will try and woo Republican lawmakers into passing measures to allow gambling other than the lottery.
It won’t be an easy mission. A deeply religious and conservative state, Republicans have controlled the governor’s office, Senate, and House since 2005.
But with legal sports betting and commercial casinos continuing to expand across the southeast, a few notable states that recently passed gambling bills being Virginia, Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas, and North Carolina, perhaps 2022 presents supporters with better odds.
Along with the Atlanta Motor Speedway pitch, casino companies are mulling building resorts at the CNN Center, Centennial Yards, and in the towns of Augusta, Hartwell, and Kingsland.
Rich Lackey, a commercial real estate executive who is promoting Georgia for casinos, says in total, the investments could reach $5 billion.
It would be a vote against $5 billion in brick-and-mortar construction and 50,000 new jobs in Georgia,” Lackey said of lawmakers potentially opposing gaming legislation.
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