A lottery-fueled gambling complex in Norcross?

This just arrived from Greg Bluestein and the Associated Press. Charlotte Nash, the chairman of the Gwinnett County Commission, said she is “intrigued” by the proposal:

A developer is betting that Georgia residents are ready for a gambling facility, and he’s unveiled plans to build a sprawling new complex near Atlanta that he hopes can give a jolt to the state’s economy and infuse the popular HOPE scholarship program with much-needed cash.

Dan O’Leary [said] Tuesday he wants to build a $1 billion entertainment complex near Norcross that includes a towering hotel, a spacious theater and a game floor with 7,500 video lottery machines.

Gambling proposals have emerged in recent years in Georgia and other states hard-hit by the economic downturn. It’s been a tough sell in Georgia, where conservative groups and legislators fear it could erode family values and lead to increases in crime and divorce.

O’Leary said the development could funnel $350 million each year to the struggling college scholarship program.

“Our project will completely solve the HOPE problem and will help Georgia in a huge way. It can start building back up HOPE’s reserves, send more kids to college, send more kids to prekindergarten — and we can do it today,” he said.

It isn’t the first time that O’Leary has rolled the dice on an ambitious gambling project. He had a plan in 2009 to transform Underground Atlanta, the downtown attraction he operates, into a casino with restaurants, shops and a hotel. The project was scuttled amid opposition from then-Gov. Sonny Perdue.

O’Leary said his new project won’t need legislative approval because it involves video terminals already permitted under state law. But it will need the backing of the Georgia Lottery Board, which would regulate the gambling machines, and whose members are appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

It’s unclear where Deal stands on the project, but records obtained through the state’s sunshine laws indicate O’Leary met with Deal and his chief-of-staff, Chris Riley, in January.

Deal’s office didn’t immediately comment on the specifics of the proposal. In an earlier interview Tuesday, the governor said that he generally doesn’t think Georgia is “compatible with a casino-type environment.”

“That’s a discussion that we have not had with the lottery board,” he said when asked about his views on video lottery terminals. “I have some concerns about it, obviously. I do not support the casino-type concept. I don’t think that is good for our state. And I’ve also said I do not support other forms of gambling that some have suggested as a revenue measure.”

O’Leary is careful not to call his project a casino and said it wouldn’t expand gambling in Georgia. State law bans Las Vegas-style card games like poker, but the state lottery charter doesn’t specifically outlaw video lottery terminals. The Georgia attorney general’s office said in a March 2010 letter that the terminals are “generally permitted” under state law.

The lottery board didn’t immediately comment. The board’s chairman, James Braswell, has said he believes his agency has the legal authority to add the machines. But he has said it couldn’t do so without a broader discussion with politicians and the public.

The struggles of the HOPE scholarship program give O’Leary an opening to make his case for the machines. Lawmakers made massive cuts to the program and the state’s prekindergarten programs last year, doing away with full scholarships for all but the highest-performing students and slashing 20 days out of the pre-k calendar. Deal said he hopes to restore funding for some of those days.

The scholarship program also no longer pays for books or campus fees, meaning that students must shell out thousands of dollars more each year to attend college in Georgia. Deal has said the cuts were needed to prevent the increasingly popular programs from going bankrupt after demand for the scholarships and pre-k outpaced lottery sales.

The complex would be built on 122 acres O’Leary has a contract to buy from fiber optics manufacturer OFS, which will keep a facility on site. It sits off Interstate 85 and features a rail line that could one day connect to the Doraville MARTA station.

The proposal calls for a top-notch complex that includes stores, restaurants and attractions for gamblers and others, O’Leary said. He projects the development to draw five million visitors each year.

“Our facility will be world class. It will be first class. But it won’t be the glitzy Las Vegas Strip,” he said. “It will have a very posh feel. And it will be something the state of Georgia is tremendously proud of.”

The first phase of the development, estimated to cost $400 million, will feature a towering 24-story hotel with 500 rooms, the gambling floor and a parking garage. The second phase would build another hotel tower with an additional 1,000 rooms, a 5,000-seat theater and another parking garage.

The terminals resemble video slot machines, which are hooked into a centralized computer system that would be regulated by the lottery board. Supporters compare the games to instant-win tickets that are sold by the lottery and offer immediate payouts. The machines would spit out receipts that can be redeemed for money.

They are being used in at least eight states and proposals are pending in several others.

O’Leary said he has a letter of intent with Dover Downs, a company that operates a hotel and casino with video lottery terminals in Delaware, to develop the project. The Delaware Lottery says it has raised $2 billion from video lottery terminals at Dover Downs and other casinos since 1995. That facility now includes Las Vegas-style games like poker, a sports book and horse racing. O’Leary said he has no plans to expand his proposal into other areas of gambling.

All told, O’Leary said the complex is estimated to cost about $1 billion, create 2,500 new jobs, generate 1,000 additional construction jobs and set off a new boom that could revitalize the downtrodden area where it will be built. He said the first phase can be up and running within 18 months of getting the green light to build.

The developer estimates his project will generate $700 million in annual revenue, half of which will go to the lottery.
Charlotte Nash, who chairs the Gwinnett County commission, said she is considering the proposal and was intrigued by a recent visit to Dover Downs.

“From my initial views, there’s a substantial potential impact related to job creation,” said Nash, who said the commission is still vetting the project. “And we certainly see the fact that the HOPE scholarship needs help on a long-term basis. The hope is that this could help.”

The proposal comes after a study late last year found a trio of casinos built in metro Atlanta, Savannah and Jekyll Island could produce nearly $1 billion in revenue each year for Georgia.

O’Leary, who was been pushing video lottery projects in Georgia for eight years, acknowledges he has a battle ahead of him. But he sees his proposal as a bold solution to the HOPE scholarship dilemma.

“We have one of the best-run lotteries in the country. But it’s a mature business,” O’Leary said. “One more scratch-off game isn’t going to do it.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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110 comments Add your comment

Andrea Sneiderman

February 28th, 2012
5:41 pm

I told him to do it.

I would tell the judge but I’m barred.

u no who

February 28th, 2012
5:41 pm

they are all crooks

Hemy Neumann

February 28th, 2012
5:45 pm

And iiiii will always love youuuu Andrea

honested

February 28th, 2012
5:56 pm

They could build a second Bellagio there, I still wouldn’t want to hang out in Norcorss.

blah

February 28th, 2012
5:59 pm

They will have no shortage of good cleaning and groundskeeping help out there in Norcross…

Chaz Bono

February 28th, 2012
6:00 pm

Norcross should be renamed lil’ tokyo.

double

February 28th, 2012
6:05 pm

Just another way to shear the sheep.

Bill Oldknow

February 28th, 2012
6:10 pm

Put it at the Atlanta Airport. College Park has tons of empty space.

Michael

February 28th, 2012
6:19 pm

They are Korean.감사합니다.

Ivory

February 28th, 2012
6:28 pm

Norcross has been on it’s way down the drain for sometime now, this would put it beyond the P trap! They should ask corrupt Detroit what gambling did for that city.

Dave

February 28th, 2012
6:31 pm

Cheesy, cheesy, cheesy. Governor and legislators, why don’t you just go ahead and change the law that originally set up the GA Lottery, so the likes of O’Leary stop trying to “game” the GA Lottery for their own personnel greed?!!! Oh yeah, and while you are at it legislators, let’s stop letting the local Development Authorities and the state put the risk of financing all these outrageous schemes on the backs of taxpayers. How long are we going to have to pay for Sonny’s “Go Fish” joke of a venture?

2SJ

February 28th, 2012
6:36 pm

The College Park / Hapeville / East Point area is a perfect fit; Plenty of hotels, convention centers, out-of-state dollars, etc.

The South Line of MARTA (between Ft. McPherson and College Park) has already begun experiencing the beginning of its renaissance as plenty of intelligent, worldly, and all-around great people have established themselves in those neighborhoods as of late.

Sam the Sham

February 28th, 2012
6:41 pm

Mississippi has had gambling for years and how much did that money improve their education system???? They are STILL 50 out of 50.

zgoldatl

February 28th, 2012
6:48 pm

I’m in support of full on casino gambling in Georgia. Why should I have to go to Mississippi to gamble? I’d rather my dollars go to GA

xdog

February 28th, 2012
6:54 pm

If the state is serious about raising revenue via gambling they’ll permit sports betting.

Scott Anderson

February 28th, 2012
6:59 pm

the sooner the better. We need to infuse money into Georgia any way we can. Construction jobs, clerks, cleaners, ppl playing. Its about time. Georgia was the last state to get beer sales on Sunday and oh wow wasnt that a big problem when that happened NOT!
The bible belt is not supposed to be able to keep ppl from having things they want.

Frank Furter

February 28th, 2012
7:03 pm

double

February 28th, 2012
7:07 pm

Feds giving up more tv channels to fcc.Faster wireless data for smartphones/tablet compu. etc.This fruitcake president sign the bill as part of payroll tax pkg.This tv helped lots of us poor people.11 million according to nielsen.

2sj

February 28th, 2012
7:09 pm

2 skinnee j’s!

2 skinnee j’s!

double

February 28th, 2012
7:12 pm

Fail proof banks would be a good beginning to infuse money into Ga.

C

February 28th, 2012
7:12 pm

IF you are going to build a casino. Go all the way. Build an actual Vegas style casino. Just put it someplace where people want to visit. Gwinnett Co. definatly does not fit the bill of a place folks want to visit.

fsu1987

February 28th, 2012
7:13 pm

I support the idea, but like everyone else do not think it should be in Norcross. Downtown and aiport area are better choices.

Contractor

February 28th, 2012
7:22 pm

Yeah, go ahead and make it that much easier for all those sorry asses out there to go blow their welfare and unemployment checks instead of on Cash 3, Cash 4, and Fantasy 5 drawings three times a day. Go put it in Savannah or somewhere away from Atlanta where spending their livelihood is a little harder than just catching a MARTA bus to and from the casino.

double

February 28th, 2012
7:23 pm

Bordellos/Brothels go all the way.Put them in Gainsville/Athens area.

HENRY

February 28th, 2012
7:27 pm

WE NEED A DOG TRACK AND CASINO, NOT THIS PENNY ANTE LOTTERY BASED BULL CRAP. PEOPLE WANT TO ROLL DICE AND PLAY CARDS. THAT WOULD WORK. THIS LOTTERY BASED BS IS JUST THAT…….A LOSING PROPOSITION.

Lucille

February 28th, 2012
7:27 pm

How ’bout a dog/pony track?

4 freedom 4 ever

February 28th, 2012
7:27 pm

I say go ahead with it. Only the holy rollers have a problem with this kind of economic development.

Lucille

February 28th, 2012
7:28 pm

Damn Henry! Great minds think alike in unison. Jinks buy me a coke.

Ed

February 28th, 2012
7:31 pm

Everyday, I question why I live in this town. I know, Delta is ready when I am. It’s sad, the infrastructure of this once great town is a mess.

SAWB

February 28th, 2012
7:31 pm

How about dog fights?

Lou

February 28th, 2012
7:32 pm

Yes, please. Anything to cut down on the line at the Quicktrip-while some degenerate scratches off their dreams.

Michael

February 28th, 2012
7:33 pm

Hand me that Delta schedule when you’re done with it.

Lucille,

February 28th, 2012
7:33 pm

SAWB,

U funny!

Send Obama Packing

February 28th, 2012
7:39 pm

Gambling is most regressive on the poor black folks and poor white folks.

Gambling Is For Losers

February 28th, 2012
7:44 pm

Dan O’Leary, why does this idiot keep trying to push gambling on the state?

So he can make millions while he watches idiots go lose their life savings, kids education fund etc etc. Also the point about about Mississippi having gambling and still being last is a good point but also look at all the states that have gambling you will will see that they all are suffering with revenue. GAMBLING DID NOT SOLVE A DAMN THING FOR THEM! This proposal would also take monies away from the lottery as suckers only have so much money to lose. It is very simple economics.

P

February 28th, 2012
7:46 pm

I live in historic Norcross and this is a bad idea. If they’re going to do it, do it in Savannah & Jekyl.

Back up the truck

February 28th, 2012
7:48 pm

Please let me know the location so I can put my house on the market and move. If the HOPE scholarship was rewarded to scholars instead of the funds being pimped out for votes (free day care) it wouldn’t be in this mess. The lottery is a tax on the stupid and about the only way to recoup some of the Earned Income Tax Credit but it is destructive (no I’m not a Bible thumper – just a realist). It is a free country, although the Dems are working at taking that away too. If it’s legal and what people want, so be it. The plan is approved……I’m gone.

Sergio

February 28th, 2012
7:49 pm

More parks, less concrete.

helen waite

February 28th, 2012
7:52 pm

Lotteries produce nothing. They siphon money that would be spent elsewhere in the economy, and funnel a large portion of it to politically connected administrators. Taxes that would be generated from expenditures of the money that gets redirected to the lottery would exceed the small portion of the proceeds that the state receives after the politicians pay their cronies. It is fools remedy.

bob from account temps

February 28th, 2012
7:56 pm

it will be just like sunday booze sales. spread out over seven days instead of six – spend your money one place or the other to gamble. no new revenue.

Paul

February 28th, 2012
7:56 pm

You know, I work in that area. First, the intersection of I-85 and Jimmy Carter COULD NOT support this type of traffic – that exchange MUST be redone. Access to the OFS site is on Crescent Dr (look it up on Google maps it is the big white blob on the map). They want HOW many thousands of visitors coming there? And HOW many employees? 2500? Have you seen morning and evening traffic from Indian Trail, Beaver Ruin, Jimmy Carter, and Pleasantdale/ Northcrest exits? HA! There will have to be many millions of $ spent on MAJOR infrastructure improvements before this could become reality.

helen waite

February 28th, 2012
7:59 pm

Garbage in…garbage out…

[...] A lottery-fueled gambling complex in Norcross? – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

JJ

February 28th, 2012
8:07 pm

Low paying jobs will not fix anything in GA. Ask PA has not made life better for the people. Look at Houston, TX economy. They have 3 main business arena not even sure we have one thats compare to that. We all have pipe dreams in GA all I read is one day for this or that but what about NOW.

Pizzaman

February 28th, 2012
8:09 pm

The Redneck Republicans that rule this hole will never go for it.

Neon Dione

February 28th, 2012
8:11 pm

Those machines are already in every corner store backroom in the state of Georgia so adding them in an established location with regulated machines would be a plus. Just be ready for the effects that gambling addiction has on your family and the lack of resources you find when you try to get them help. This is a bad idea in a bad location at a very bad time. Come on! Gwinnett your being sold out again. HOTT lanes anyone!

Jack

February 28th, 2012
8:18 pm

Double nailed it: another way to shear the sheep.

Horsetoothedjackass

February 28th, 2012
8:21 pm

@xdog Sports betting is legal in Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana, as these four states offered some form of sports betting at the time the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was passed by Congress in 1992. Delaware, Oregon and Montana have (or had) sports betting that was more akin to parlays (which is also the only legal sports betting in Canadian casinos). New Jersey recently voted to allow sports betting, but they would have to get the Federal ban overturned in order to offer it (Atlantic City has been suffering because of casinos in other states, especially those in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, as A.C. has long depended on Philly and NYC folks, and the casinos hope that if they are allowed to offer sports betting like their counterparts in Nevada, they could get folks that have been going to the casinos in other states to start coming there.).

A VLT casino will eventually be built in the Atlanta area unless the state lawmakers try to make it so that GLC cannot be involved with VLTs. I think that GLC really ought to embrace these machines and have them in places that currently have those “for amusement only” video slots that we all know pay players cash (If these businesses with these machines weren’t paying folks, folks wouldn’t be playing them.). Store owners might see their lottery revenues grow even more.

wtf?

February 28th, 2012
8:26 pm

you can be certain that if the lottery gets their hands on it the whole thing will become a disaster and even more money will disappear from the books. Why noone has investigated the lottery commission makes no sense, unless they are buying off everyone that comes their way

Hetch Hetchy

February 28th, 2012
8:46 pm

I would think legal gambling in the state of Georgia would be a boon to the local economies. Horse racing, sports betting, limited prostitution, gaming, etc. Sounds good to me.

The big IF is organized crime becoming a huge presence in the state. They are already here, but with legal gambling they will be here in spades (pun intended). Law enforcement will have their hands full guarding against internal corruption and policing an entrenched, savy, and well funded opponent.