If you are a conservative Christian wandering the halls of the state Capitol, it is not just SB 10, the Sunday sales bill, that has you spitting nails.
Or the business lobbyists who once conceded your influence – and now do not.
There is more. Possibly you weren’t too fond of last week’s decision by the House to table the English-only requirement for drivers’ license tests, sponsored by state Rep. James Mills, R-Gainesville, a strong ally.
Surely you were upset by the re-introduction by state Rep. Harry Geisinger, R-Roswell, of a measure to permit horse-racing – and the gambling that comes with it.
But what may have pushed you over the edge is the idea of establishing gambling zones in the state – at tourist locales like Jekyll Island and Lake Lanier. Even though the likelihood of passage is slim.
Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, said he plans to introduce a constitutional amendment toward the end of the current legislative session to open the door to casinos in parts of the state that already draw tourists, designated as Special Entertainment Zones.
He suggests places like Jekyll Island, Lake Lanier and Savannah’s Hutchinson Island, home to the Georgia International Trade Center, upscale hotels and a marina for yachts and cruise ships.
Stephens wouldn’t extend the zone to the waterways around Hutchinson Island because he doesn’t want cruise ships to be able to offer their onboard gambling until they’re three miles off the Georgia coast. That would leave tourists who like to wager with just the onshore option.
“I want them to have the opportunity to spend their money in Georgia rather than taking their money on the ship and spending it somewhere else,” said Stephens, chairman of the House Economic Development & Tourism Committee.
The casinos would play games of the Georgia Lottery which goes to fund the HOPE Scholarship and Pre-K program.
The state constitution already recognizes one Special Entertainment Zone around the Underground Atlanta-Georgia Dome area. His legislation would allow the state to create new ones. His plan builds on a proposal by developers to encourage the Georgia Lottery Corp. to use its existing authority to approve video terminals similar to video poker or slot machines. The developers want the terminals in a casino they want to build near Underground in that entertainment zone.
The lottery’s board hasn’t acted on the developers’ request since it was first made two years ago, primarily because then-Gov. Sonny Perdue opposed the expansion of legalized gaming. Gov. Nathan Deal has been less adamant about blocking it, and supporters feel encouraged.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider