Casinos, a Big Gamble
Gambling's risks can outweigh the benefits.
Reports of the shortfall in revenue plaguing cities and counties in Georgia continues to make news. Elected officials are trying to find new revenue streams that will help balance the budget and replace reserve funds that have been tapped during this time of economic struggle.
Citizens have recoiled at higher property taxes and question the extension of SPLOST, but now Rep. Harry Geisinger (R-Roswell) has introduced legislation to provide a new form of revenue - gambling proceeds.
House Resolution 186 is similar to legislation (HR 1177) Geisinger introduced in the 2009-2010 legislative term. This proposed constitutional amendment would enable voters across the state to decide whether or not to allow horse racing and pari-mutuel gambling in their local communities. (Full disclosure causes me to reveal I am a member of a national coalition called Stop Predatory Gambling.)
On the heels of Rep. Geisinger's announcement, Rep. Ron Stephen (R-Savannah) said he plans to introduce a bill calling for a constitutional amendment that will open doors to casinos in parts of our state already drawing tourists. According to Walter Jones and Morris News Service, as referenced by Jim Galloway in his column "Political Insider," these Special Entertainment Zones could be called “Gambling Zones.” The kicker is that places like Jekyll Island, Savannah’s Hutchinson Island and Lake Lanier would be prime candidates for the first casinos in Georgia, according to Rep. Stephens.
The experience we have had with the lottery should tell us that the gambling supporters always over-promise and under-deliver when it is time to pay up. Evidence from across the nation documents the risk is much too big to gamble the future of the next generation away.
The first year after casinos opened in Mississippi, suicides doubled. Last summer in Alabama, indictments were issued against several elected officials because of the corruption tied to the gambling interest in the state. In Alabama, one casino owner sued another casino operation because the promised money that was to be given to charity had not been forthcoming. One investigative reporter, who is not an activist against gambling, has asked questions in Pennsylvania that have gone unanswered about the cost to the taxpayers versus the actual benefit to be realized from casinos.
With the possibility of a casino so close to Dacula at Lake Lanier, what possible tax advantage would the citizens of Dacula enjoy? There are studies that indicate for every dollar taken into the treasury, it takes three to provide additional law enforcement and to provide for social and familial needs caused by gambling addictions.
From where I stand, this so-called rainbow leading to a pot of gold is really just a highway to bankruptcy.