Baker wants Bingo for education

Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, promised this morning to push a constitutional amendment to legalize electronic bingo to raise  money for  schools.

thurbert baker
During a Capitol press conference, Baker vowed to use the bingo proceeds – which he said would reach $2 billion a year in a decade – to fund higher teacher salaries, a lengthening of the school year, after-school initiatives and a host of other school programs. The Georgia Lottery would run the game.

“This will transform education in Georgia forever, and for the better,” said Baker, who served as a House floor leader to the father of Georgia’s lottery and HOPE scholarship program, Gov. Zell Miller.

“Our promise is simple: we will make Georgia schools not just better than any schools in America, but as good as any school in the world. We will no longer sit back and watch Georgia’s kids get beat by students in other parts of the United States, or by students in Germany, Japan or Korea.”

Baker wants to increase the number of days children are in school from 180 to 200 days. Many school systems have reduced the number of days because of state budget cuts.

His plan, called the BEST initiative, also calls for hiring 2,755 new teachers each year for a decade, eliminating any waiting lists on pre-kindergarten classes, having universal kindergarten in Georgia, creating two-hour after-school programs in all schools, reinstating scholarship programs for teachers and prospective teachers, and creating a new mentoring program for teachers.

He said after a decade, Georgia would have the highest-paid teachers in the U.S. and the most teachers per student in the country.

The Bingo games would have to raise more than twice what the current lottery takes in to pay for Baker’s programs. Last year, the lottery provided $872 million for education. The new, phased in bingo-funded programs would cost $2 billion a year within a decade.

“We believe the dollars are going to be there, that’s not an issue,” he said. “We believe the numbers we are proposing are conservative numbers.”

Polls show Baker trailing former Gov. Roy Barnes in the Democratic race for governor. Other leading candidates include former state Adjutant General David Poythress and state House Minority Leader DuBose Porter (D-Dublin).

Barnes responded, “If the idea has merit and public support and the funds will be dedicated to public education, the State should consider it.”

Poythress said creating electronic bingo for education is a bad idea.

“Everybody is concerned about funding education, but the education challenges we face are more than just funding,” he said. “As a revenue source, gambling is problematic at best. It seems to me the last thing we ought to be talking about right now is creating a government bureaucracy to regulate another legalized gambling operation.

“I don’t see anything good about this idea.”

Porter said Baker’s Bingo would compete with other, non-profit groups who use bingo for fundraising.

” My plan of going after the cheaters who don’t send in the state’s portion of sales taxes would be a more sustainable and reliable source for funding education,” Porter said.

Electronic bingo is a hot topic in neighboring Alabama.  Gov. Bob Riley has been fighting to shut down electronic bingo casinos.

45 comments Add your comment


June 16th, 2010
10:25 am

I wish we had a candidate on either side that has an answer other than “Throw Money At It”.


June 16th, 2010
10:29 am

And I though that’s what the Georgia Lottery was slated for when we agreed to it…


June 16th, 2010
10:32 am

Democrat/teachers solutions to education = we need more money (but not Race to the top money).

Ask the city of Atlanta (highest student per capita spending in the state) how well that + changing CRCT answers are doing for education.

“B1″ – for Baker is number one on education issues
“I15″ – for I (baker) will increase teacher salaries by 15%

Fist full of dollars

June 16th, 2010
10:41 am

I guess your raisin’ catches up with you at some point. I’m just glad his handlers convinced him to back away from his original idea. Throwing dice in the alley.

Mr. Grumpy

June 16th, 2010
10:41 am

Hey, Fred, you have to throw money BACK at it…remember, Sonny took a bunch of it away every year since 2002. Hello!!! Throw money at it? No, give the money back that it needs to do more than a half-assed job of educating our kids. Otherwise, Georgia kids will always be near the bottom of educational achievement in this country and will never be able to compete in national and international markets.


June 16th, 2010
10:43 am

Wonder how much money that cost the video bingo folks.


June 16th, 2010
10:43 am

I drove across Alabama about 3 months ago and noticed all the bingo halls. In one stretch of about 5 miles, I counted 7 such establishments. I commented to my wife that I was unaware that so many people liked bingo. I thought it was just geriatric members of community churches that enjoyed the game so much.

I suppose I have no real qualms about the idea.

I do question this whole “video” thing. I mean, what exactly makes video gambling more palatable to the Georgia electorate. Whether its casino, bingo, or poker style gambling, we always seem to be discussing video gmabling. Other than making the gambling experience less entertaining, why would someone consider video gambling over human interaction gambling?

If it were up to me, I think I would like to see us just open up our state to Nevada’s laws regarding both gambling and prostitution.


June 16th, 2010
10:45 am

Solving our problems on the backs of poor people once again….

Fix Georgia's Education

June 16th, 2010
10:49 am


June 16th, 2010
11:01 am

I do not care about the prostitution thing other than to say they do it anyway might as well tax it, but the gambling thing is long overdue. Let us decide and legalize… it….ear mark for education….make us a tourist destination and bring in some real conventions…see these things spring other things….oh and they also create private sector jobs….who ever said something about it burdening the poor….PERSONAL CHOICE AND RESPONSIBILITY…..If I go to Vegas and spend my money that is on me, I buy lottery tickets that is on me, I can not pay the bills….that is on me as well….this country is crumbling under the weight of weak individuals absolving themselves of any personal responsibility for anything….raising their kids (why do teachers spend 35% of their time disciplining rather than teaching), living within their means (they know their income), or even drinking and driving (duh)…I am sick of hearing the ignorance of a statement such as “it is not my fault someone else caused me to do it”….If you screw something up then just say I did it….brain fart…and move on…stop blaming everyone else and let’s put real solutions to work.

Understanding Atlanta

June 16th, 2010
11:13 am

There are two differnt things going on here. First – Baker wants to use video bingo much like what’s in Alabama to raise additional funding for education. GA Lottery funds pre & post K-12. This is a good idea that would increase the funds that go to education. Second – There needs to be a good hard look taken at the State’s education system and where costs can be streamlined. Most metro Atlanta districts are too top heavy. That’s what happens when you turn school boards in beaucracies and incompetency happen when they are appointed (friends of the Governor or whoever does the appointing). There are pitfalls of each. These elected school boards cater to the ones that are most vocal, whether their ideas are best for the entire district or not.
But it wouldn’t hurt to have more money for quality activies and quality improvements to Georgia schools that would come from legalizing gambling in the state.


June 16th, 2010
11:21 am

“Las Vegas style” casinos with class will bring in more people and much more money than bingo “casinos”. A real casino will pull in money over state lines. Just go down to Biloxi and Gulfport and count the Georgia tags in the parking lots of the casinos.


June 16th, 2010
11:26 am

The schools are just thriving from all those lottery funds. I can’t wait to see the class sizes after we start getting bingo money. Forty students for every teacher?

Art Vandalay

June 16th, 2010
11:28 am

If we truly want to be a top convention destination as we have so long been presenting ourselves as, when in reality we are a discount destination for things like wig shows, and weirdo dragon con shows, the we HAVE to have casino gambling. Florida has done it and their Seminole Hard Rock Casino’s are booming and PLENTY of people in Metro Atlanta now take frequent weekend trips to Tampa. The state is trending away from this southern baptist mentality at break neck pace and i’m surprised more business-minded Republicans like myself can’t focus more on the bottom line.

Now I don’t want our town and state to be defined by only gaming like Nevada but I think we should have “casino zones” and no dear god no not at the underground. I do however think there should be one in the area around Centennial Park, and then maybe in an area around Lake Lanier. Legalize table games and encourage the legitimate operators to set up shop like Harrah’s and Hard Rock, if you have been to Vegas you know the nicer facilities, Caesars, Ventitian, Palazzo, etc. do not attract the “seedy” element everyone seems concerned about. You build a few nice facilities around centennial park and the GWCC, then market it and set your table limits for the element you want to attract, it is not rocket science for casinos to attract only certain socio-economic groups.


June 16th, 2010
11:29 am

What’s the difference between “video bingo” and the “Keno” game we already have? Where exactly will this extra $2 billion come from? Are people going to work harder and earn more so they can spend it on video bingo? Or could we do more for Georgians by showing them how this is a sucker’s game, and how they can be so much better off if they save and invest?

Art Vandalay

June 16th, 2010
11:32 am

@ Roach the thousands of people a few world class Casino/Hotels would employ is not a suckers game by any means.

[...] it still seems odd to hear a candidate for governor announce, as did Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker this morning, that he would push a constitutional amendment to legalize electronic bingo to raise  money for  [...]

Art Vandalay

June 16th, 2010
11:36 am

I for one would love to have Palazzo type facility Downtown or Midtown and a Green Valley Ranch or Foxwoods type resort up on Lake Lanier. A modern Casino resort is so much more than gambling it just gives us great options to have vacations and enjoy or own region. In Vegas you have to puposfully make time for gambling if you want to because there are so many other things to do.


June 16th, 2010
11:48 am

So Florida is our fiscal role model?? Incidentally, Draconcon is a huge event.

Although funds would be used for different purposes than the current lottery, it certainly seems like they would be competing for the same money.

I do like the irony of using individual foolishness (I almost said stupidity, but decided that was too harsh) to fund education.


June 16th, 2010
11:51 am


Thanks for explaining that to us. Now that we all understand, I am sure everyone will stop being so stupid.

Art Vandalay

June 16th, 2010
11:53 am

Believe it or not some people really do have the extra cash to enjoy themselves gambling and not go over board, why is it foolishness? Perhaps some people think its foolish to donate $10,000 to be considered for college football tickets, but its not illegal.

Art Vandalay

June 16th, 2010
11:56 am

there are A LOT of people who can responsibly enjoy gambling, we are supposed to keep it outlawed because some people go overboard? Some people drink to much, shop too much, smoke too much, talk on their phone too much, play video games too much…all these things can be just as harmful to their finances as gambling, should we outlaw all of them as well?

Dekalb Teacher

June 16th, 2010
12:09 pm

While it’s true, money can help in many ways, (my pay got cut quite a bit) as usual most politicians are saying exactly what they think the public wants to hear, throw more money at education to solve the problems. Where does that extra money usually go? It goes to the administrative offices in the districts. In Dekalb county school district there are 219 positions titled Miscellaneous Activities that were paid over $5 million in 2009 and spending thousands in travel expenses. We need central offices for pay, personnel, and curriculum. They need to decentralize decision making and teaching decisions to cluster level (the schools that feed into each other). We continuously hear how the US is falling behind other countries. They are not run by a large, centralized, corrupt system like ours. The community, schools, and parents work together for success. The schools are held accountable, but have full support of the others. Our politicians are reluctant to deal with the problems as a whole. They think the answer is always money. If we want to improve our education system, we must be willing to start with the root causes of problems and work our way up. If we only treat the symptoms and never have the guts to diagnose the actual problems we are spending money for nothing. So all of you politicians, stop running your mouths about how you are going to finance education, how you are going to solve our problems when you haven’t a clue what the real problems are. Hold parents, students, teachers, administrators, communities all accountable. Right to a free education should not mean that a student should be able to attend the same grade level more than once if it is due to absence, conduct, or other reasons due to the students fault. If a teacher consistently does not perform based upon fair observations, they need a different profession. If parents cannot respond to the needs of their children’s education, that is neglect of their duties. Put the money where it is needed, in the schools, not the central offices to dispose of at their will. Middle Schools should have access to decent science labs since science is a priority. Reading should be an academic subject. If a child cannot perform academically or behaviorally, they should not be in sports or other extracurricular activities in middle and high school. Let’s have someone run for office that is willing to give more than talk for education. Let’s have someone with the guts to actually do something about it.


June 16th, 2010
12:18 pm

baker will have to change the law to make this happen


June 16th, 2010
12:24 pm

by law, the lottery only can fund pre k and college. no funds can be used for other levels of education.


June 16th, 2010
12:26 pm

If They really wanted to fix the problems in this state they would just legalize altogether. This would allow the state to regulate it and make billions off of it. This would create a lot of jobs and casinos would move into downtown making Atlanta even more attractive as a convention city. The money should not be ear marked for any special fund because there are a lot of areas that need help and the bottom line would be finding a way to do away with state income tax and legalized gambling would be a great start to that. If this is the direction that bingo is heading in then I am in-favor of it. I do not think it is the governments responsibility to protect people from themselves and making gambling illegal is doing that.


June 16th, 2010
12:28 pm

Legalize casinos. Most of the Bingo in Georgia goes to help our Veterans and their programs. They have given enough. Don’t take from them anymore


June 16th, 2010
12:29 pm

Baker is bought and paid for by the folks who plan to make billions off video bingo. He ought to have a “for sale” sign around his neck. His time in office is drawing to a close and he needs to make friends in slimy places.


June 16th, 2010
12:38 pm

Can anyone address the “video” aspect of this for me?

Why is video gambling instead of table gambling on the table?

What makes video gambling an easier pill to swallow?

depend on skill, not luck

June 16th, 2010
12:41 pm

If we’re going to go in this direction to raise revenue we should not do it with bingo, video or otherwise. In addition to competing with nonprofits that raise money through this game, video bingo will compete with the keno game that the lottery offers. Bingo and keno are very similar – the player wins through matching numbers to a random selection.

Instead of more unskilled gambling where the player is up against hefty odds for the house (in our case the GA Lottery Corp.), the state should consider a limited number of poker rooms. Poker is a skill-based game in which the players compete against each other, not the house. The house makes money by raking a fraction (usually 10% or less) from each pot, or charging a fee to enter a tournament. After covering expenses, this money could go to education.

People who know poker understand that it is very distinct from other forms of gambling. Poker is an American card game that is enjoyed by tens of millions of hard-working folks all across this country. Unlike slots, keno, or even some casino games, it is a social recreation played against other individuals, not the house. Most people learn the game at their dining room table with family and/or friends. A substantial customer base in Georgia already exists, so revenue would be solid from the start and consistent thereafter.

Live poker would provide more jobs than bingo (dealers, floor personnel, and managers), would draw people to the state (it is only legal in one bordering state, Florida), and would keep Georgia’s numerous players here. Also, if the state allowed it, Georgia poker rooms could hold periodic large buy-in tournaments that attract fans, celebrities, and television production crews.

We certainly don’t need poker in every corner storefront as is the case with keno. But a limited number of rooms, either licensed or run by the GA Lottery, would do very well here. And of course, it would provide a consistent revenue stream for educational initiatives.

depend on skill, not luck

June 16th, 2010
12:44 pm

I should add that I am not in favor of full scale casinos, which attract slot zombies and addicted gamblers desperate for some kind of rush. Poker is a learned recreation and poker tables are not frequented by those who are unfamiliar with the game.

about time

June 16th, 2010
1:00 pm

god forbid you offend the Taliban, I mean Southern Baptists, which have such a stronghold in Georgia politics.


June 16th, 2010
1:07 pm

The Media needs to help Mr. Baker. A little known high school in Atlanta was just honored in Washington, D.C. for having the number 1 Stock Market team in the nation. Check SIFMA foundation websites and press releases. Why haven’t the Atlanta newspapers reported this?

[...] on Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker a Democratic gubernatorial candidate who has promised this morning to push a constitutional amendment to legalize electronic bingo to raise money for schools. Share and Enjoy: [...]

[...] AJC colleague James Salzer has the details. But you can read the Baker handout [...]


June 16th, 2010
1:12 pm

So no one knows the answer?

I have tried to find information about it. For the life of me, I can’t imagine a reason why a video bingo is better than one where a human calls the numbers. Or why video black jack is better than a human dealer.

Someone has to know why?


June 16th, 2010
1:25 pm

Mr. Grumpy, once we cut out all the money we are wasting, then we can look at that. If we would just run the state services efficiently, we would have a lot more money available WITHOUT collecting more.

Besides, I PAID for my kids to get a real education. Public education is free, and normally that’s what it is worth.


June 16th, 2010
2:12 pm

If the Dekalb County System should start cutting the salaries of the employees at the top of the school system then we all will see a difference, also President Obama should hire a watch dog group to monitor the finances of the school, this is why sometimes you have to get the government involved to weed out the shady dealings in the school system, we never had to buy school supplies, and what about the lottery money, isn’t the school system getting a portion of it????? You do the math……..


June 16th, 2010
2:33 pm

Kennedy challenged America to land a man on the moon within a decade. It was about the cold war and national security. And he called on America to apply all of its energy and talents toward a noble quest. Today, Thurbert Baker invokes Kennedy’s imagery to implore us to play bingo.


June 16th, 2010
2:50 pm

I asm not sure throwing more money at public schools is the answer. They do not spend well what they spend and overpay many employees..NOT teachers.

David Staples

June 16th, 2010
3:33 pm

Fred – there is another candidate who looks at the education issue as something more than just throwing money at the situation. It’s the Libertarian in the race – John Monds. It’s time to legalize gambling period. I was in Ontario a few weeks ago and would have loved to had more time to stop and play at the casinos I drove past. I did go to the slots / horse track in Sudbury one night, which was fun. Too bad we don’t have those kinds of attractions here.

keith bogle

June 16th, 2010
3:40 pm

Seems like they have said the same thing before only to turn around and attempt to appropriate the funds for other “items”. All politicians have an insatiable thirst for more money and votes allow it with no accounting.


June 16th, 2010
6:25 pm

Guess a predominately African American High School beating 100+ mostly white schools is not important for Georgia.

[...] it still seems odd to hear a candidate for governor announce, as did Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker this morning, that he would push a constitutional amendment to legalize electronic bingo to raise  money for  [...]


June 17th, 2010
12:03 pm

What an idiot! Piling more irresponsibility on the backs of those who can’t afford to play the lotto and other “officially sanctioned” games. Typical.