The mystery of the Republican casino question

Ladies and gentlemen: With this post, I’m taking a few days off. Have a safe Memorial Day weekend.

The mark of a successful political convention is an absence of surprises.

By the time thousands of Republicans fled Columbus last weekend, the forces of Ron Paul had been routed with a heavy hand. Not a surprise.

Delegates to the annual state convention had rebuked the GOP-controlled Legislature for refusing to get serious about ethics reform. Important but predictable, given the anger of tea partyists.

And the Republican party’s executive committee, just before delegates jumped into their cars, had announced the five non-binding questions that will be placed before GOP voters on the July 31 primary ballot.

Topping the list: ‘Should Georgia have casino gambling with funds going to education?”

Boom.

The very topic stunned the highest-perched Republicans in the land. “The casino question was a shock coming out of the convention — given the prominence of social conservatives in the party infrastructure,” said Brian Robinson, spokesman for Deal. “The governor’s office was as surprised as anyone to hear about it.”

The one exception was state GOP chairman Sue Everhart, who this week took responsibility for the decision. No monied interests had pushed for the question, she said. And the party’s most recent financial disclosure, for the month of April, shows no contributions from the gambling world. (We’ll check again later.)

Everhart said the casino question was prompted by emailed messages from two or three GOP activists who complained of the cash that was leaking away to gaming havens in Mississippi and North Carolina. “They said, if we didn’t do something before long, the Indians were going to do something – and we wouldn’t get any tax revenue out of that,” Everhart said.

And just who made these arguments? “I’m not going to throw anyone from the grassroots under the bus,” the chairman said.

To a person, members of the executive committee we spoke with said they were given no advance notice of the casino question – which lost on a first vote by the committee, and won only after it was emphasized that placing the question on the ballot didn’t constitute an endorsement.

However humble its origins might be, the simple wording of the GOP ballot question matches well with a daring, $91,000 study released last year by the Georgia Lottery Corporation, which proposed that three casinos in metro Atlanta, Savannah and Jekyll Island, equipped with 10,000 video lottery terminals, could generate nearly $1 billion a year for the state as quickly as 2014.

It’s the kind of cash that – proponents say — could return the HOPE scholarship program to its full-tuition glory.

“People don’t really comprehend what’s about to happen to the HOPE scholarship,” said Dan O’Leary, a developer who has proposed one of those casinos for Gwinnett County. And no, O’Leary said, he didn’t press Everhart to include the question on the July 31 ballot.

“I’m encouraged that somebody – whoever it is – is at least willing to explore it as an opportunity,” O’Leary said.

This week, Democrats are expected to reveal what questions – also non-binding — they’ll add to their primary ballot.

State party chairman Michael Berlon said Wednesday that Democrats will certainly mimic the Republican question that wonders whether a $100 cap should be imposed on gifts from lobbyists to state lawmakers. This guarantees that ethics reform will be the No. 2 story on Aug. 1, after the transportation sales tax vote.

But Berlon also said Democrats might duplicate the GOP question on casinos as well. If they do, it would be the first time in nearly 20 years – since the approval of the state lottery in 1992 – that Georgia voters would have a chance to express their opinion on the acceptability of gaming.

Without a doubt, Republican leadership in the state Capitol is dead set against the idea of casinos opening their doors in Georgia. The governor has made his position clear. As has House Speaker David Ralston. And remember that, only six years ago, Casey Cagle was able to win the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor only after Ralph Reed’s dalliance with casino forces was revealed.

So why is this happening? With the close of last weekend’s GOP convention, the bulk of Everhart’s duties as party chairman are over. She cannot run again. The casino question certainly adds a certain flair to her exit.

Also consider that, during Everhart’s six years as chairman, Republicans will have established a party structure that is distinctly separate from, and at times at odds with, the GOP forces that rule the state Capitol.

We’ll have to wait for Aug. 1, but it’s within the realm of possibility that Everhart and her grassroots activists are a nimble step or two ahead of the people they elect.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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57 comments Add your comment

Just Wait

May 23rd, 2012
7:22 pm

Maybe this is just the Republican parties way of proving they are not the prudes the tea party makes them out to be.

Look before I leap...

May 23rd, 2012
7:41 pm

I am sure that as soon as the GOP leadership in this state figures out how to get their palms greased by the nascent gaming industry in the state, we will see wholesale support for casinos coming from the gold dome.

findog

May 23rd, 2012
7:49 pm

anything but taxes to pay for necessary government services

hiram

May 23rd, 2012
8:58 pm

@finedog
Gaming IS a tax…on the ignorant.

Serious Robuck

May 23rd, 2012
9:27 pm

Isn’t gambling SINFUL?

Evan

May 23rd, 2012
9:36 pm

Good thing it’s non-binding…I hate for the head nannies of this state to have to give up their power to rule our lives. (Still can’t believe that somehow we got them to allow us to vote on Sunday sales.)

hiram

May 23rd, 2012
9:38 pm

@ sears
Has nothing to do with religion. Politically connected people administering and marketing the scam end up with the vast majority of the revenues. They prey on people void of the ability to process abstract thoughts…like math.

Kris T.

May 23rd, 2012
9:53 pm

No mystery in the casino question as we speak rest assured that pockets (GOP) have probably already lined with $$$.

Eli

May 23rd, 2012
10:05 pm

Putting this on the democratic primary ticket is pointless. Few liberals are against gaming and those that are really are concerned about casinos preying on those with gambling addiction.

That being said, I am for anything that flies in the face of the religious traditions we are forced to live under in this backwards state. These Tea Party morons pretend they have lost rights under Obama (which they have not) without realizing that my right to not be governed by another’s religion has been infringed since the moment I became a GA resident.

It is too bad that GA might join the secular mainstream in the coming years and I may be moving away at the end of the year.

td

May 23rd, 2012
11:46 pm

Jim,

A little change of subject. I just read from my local Republican party that you are coming and moderating the Senate 31 debate in June. I may have to show up to heckle the moderator. LOL (jk)

[...] at the AJC, Jim Galloway writes about how the casino gambling question made it onto the Republican ballot as a non-binding referendum question. The very topic stunned the highest-perched Republicans in the [...]

Sam the Sham

May 24th, 2012
7:35 am

Please don’t allow Georgians to enjoy their hard earned money here. North Carolina, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi would lose too much of their gambling revenue if we didn’t travel there to do it. For the sake of our neighbors, please continue this nanny state mentality.
Thank you (Coalition to keep Georgians money elsewhere)

GodHatesTrash, Superstar

May 24th, 2012
8:06 am

Video lottery terminals are a tax on the ignorant. Should do well in Georgia.

Eli

May 24th, 2012
8:57 am

We should go ahead and legalize marijuana as well. The state needs the tax revenue and we all know that the GOP would let the state go bankrupt before it would raise taxes.

PMC

May 24th, 2012
9:29 am

no real difference between a casino and the stock market.

Tom

May 24th, 2012
9:34 am

We’ll have Sunday sales and interracial marriage before we have casinos.

slk

May 24th, 2012
9:40 am

Indians??????????Realy???????? There are no Frederaly Recognized Nations in Georgia…..Remeber?????????They were are forced at gun point to leave their ancestoral lands.
So who $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ hungry person could this be????
I mean, no $$$$ should go to any Federaly recognized person be they a child, elder,etc…..now should it? Boy greed realy knows no bounds……….can not wait to find out which non-native this person is !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please tell………………

Question Man

May 24th, 2012
9:56 am

Why do you say there is a mystery? With a huge amount of money to be made, aren’t most politicians licking their chops (even though many would not want to go on record about it)?

BlahBlahBlah

May 24th, 2012
9:56 am

I’d prefer FULL casinos that allow table games and sports betting too. The state has no problem with scratch offs but it’s illegal for me to bet $100 on a football game. Silly.

double

May 24th, 2012
9:56 am

Gaming along with inflation,devalued dollar are all tax on the people.

double

May 24th, 2012
9:59 am

Enter your comments here

nate from detroit

May 24th, 2012
10:05 am

Don’t you just love the fact that every time the government needs money, they legalize ways to raise revenue that their constituents would be locked up for trying. I am a small business owner. Business has been slow for the last few months. I need more revenue. I think I’ll start a bookmaking business on the side to supplement by income. The only problem with this is that it’s against the law.
I’m no prude about gambling, but if its good enough for the state to make money by the lottery or casinos then why can’t its citizenry also try their hand at it.
It’s just like the tobacco settlement during the Slick Willie years. We were bombarded with all of this information about all of the health risks and health care costs that tobacco use contributed to but all the government does is regulate it, tax it, and make money off of it. How serious should we take a bunch of leaders who tell you not engage in an activity because it’s bad for you, but secretly they know that they need you to engage in said activity because they need the tax revenue it generates.

n

May 24th, 2012
10:10 am

It is an outrage to even consider putting casinos on Jekyll Island, which is a world-class nature preserve and has for decades hosted family events such as soccer tournaments, 4-H Club events, nature walks, sea turtle rehab, family camping, etc.

These politicians and their cronies are capable of any evil. They would sell (or sell out) their children for money.

Casino gambling would utterly destroy and annihilate the ambiance and attraction of Jekyll Island to the tens of thousands of people who go there to find peace and nature.

You can be assured there is large amounts of money sloshing around to influence this process.

Since when is casino gambling a conservative cause? How utterly absurd that a highly placed Republican should even propose it.

hiram

May 24th, 2012
10:22 am

“Georgia (STOGA1)’s lottery players are the biggest suckers in a nation buying more than $50 billion a year in tickets for state-run games, which have the worst odds of any form of legal gambling.”

“You’re taking from those with few means and helping those with more means…”

“It’s a pro-rich wealth-redistribution technique in Georgia…”

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-03-14/georgia-lottery-players-suckers-spending-most-for-least

Going Right

May 24th, 2012
10:50 am

Eli..GOOD NEWS! Delta is still “ready when you are!!!” Good riddance. I suggest you try one of the more “progressive” states like Californicate or New Jerk or Illinnoyed to get your feet back on the ground. All three states will be of your liking, guaranteed.

GaBlue

May 24th, 2012
10:55 am

I’m voting No. I note that the Georgia Lottery, Pre-K and Hope USED to work very well. While other states used their for-education lottery funds to supplant previously designated sources of funding for education, Georgia used ours to bolster and improve education in this state. Things were going well!

This is no longer the case, since we’ve fallen under total one-party rule by people who think public education is wasted on common folk, and work every session to find ways to defund it. Now they want to bring in news avenues for their own shady investments and “create jobs” in the personal-destruction industry? No thanks.

Leon Galis

May 24th, 2012
11:02 am

There’s a tremendous amount of hype out there about the casino gambling windfall. The Athens Banner Herald gave me some editorial page space to offer a reality check. Having grown up in a family of small-stakes poker players, I have no problem with gambling as such. But if we’re going to take that root, we ought to do it with our eyes open.

http://onlineathens.com/opinion/2012-04-25/galis-casinos-arent-solution-hope-problems;

http://onlineathens.com/opinion/2012-05-03/galis-casino-gambling-isnt-answer-hope

Faaarrr Right

May 24th, 2012
11:07 am

GABlue @ 10:55a; We can assume that you are prepared to validate your idiotic comments about the “one-Party” rule you called out. That must now mean the Republican party that attained power from the Dumbocrate who ran this state with an iron fist for over 40 years before being unseated by those ungratefule and money-hungry Republicans. Of course, everyone knows that only tos who are rich are Republicans – nary a Dumbo in the crowd.
“…find ways to defund it…” If there is not enough money coming in from the Ponzi-Scheme Lottery to fund the HOPE Scholarship, how, oh greatest of minds, would you fund it? Raise taxes? yep, I guess so as that would not touch the near 50% of those who pay NO TAXES (but many who DO takes advantage of the HOPE Scholarship). Oh, and after all, those raised taxes would come from the Republicans – those who are rich in other words. No Dumbos here, please.
What, dear ‘know-it-all’ jerk, are the “…own shady investments?” What “personal destruction industry” (no hyphen needed, BTW) are you referring to?
Go back to your tree house and play with yourself and leave this to others, please.

Marlboro Man

May 24th, 2012
11:07 am

If there are no human dealers dealing cards or passing the dice, it is not real gambling. Indian casinos are for suckers.

Look before I leap...

May 24th, 2012
11:22 am

“no real difference between a casino and the stock market.”

In a casino, at least you have a fighting chance as long as you stay away from roulette, craps and all house table games except baccarat and blackjack.

Marlboro Man

May 24th, 2012
11:32 am

Craps has the best odds. Machines are programmed.

EP Blingermeyer

May 24th, 2012
11:32 am

In a stock market you have a fighting chance if you’re a bank or have access to a political intelligence firm.

Everyone else should just stay away.

GaBlue

May 24th, 2012
11:32 am

Faaarrr Right,

Bless your heart.

Look before I leap...

May 24th, 2012
11:50 am

“Craps has the best odds”

Only if you stick to the pass and come bets and take full odds.
All other bets drive the house edge into the stratosphere

Danny O

May 24th, 2012
12:13 pm

Our leaders should consider poker before looking at video lottery terminals (aka slots). The overlap in the lottery participants and poker players is far lower than the overlap b/t lottery and slots.

hiram

May 24th, 2012
12:15 pm

@faaaar right

“…Dumbocrate who ran this state with an iron fist for over 40 years before being unseated.”

Actually, Democratic governors and a majority in the General Assembly from 1872 until 2003 – 132 years.

In Georgia, all Republicans aren’t rich – on the contrary, most are working class, and make up the most naive segment of the state’s voters. They have succumbed to the mind control techniques of the rich, who have convinced them that they will somehow benefit from a common political agenda.

Leon Galis

May 24th, 2012
1:14 pm

These are the Indians the “GOP activists” are worried about: http://chronicle.augusta.com/latest-news/2011-04-08/indian-reservation-ga-coast

Georgian for Casinos

May 24th, 2012
1:55 pm

Ms. Everhart is correct in her comments about money going to Mississippi and North Carolina. She is also correct about her comment about the Indian casinos (think Florida). I’m leaving next Monday for a four-day trip to the Mississippi coast to denote money to the casinos, restaurants, gas stations, local stores, etc. We make this trip once a month and see bus loads coming from Georgia and count dozens of Georgia tags in each parking lot.

Jason

May 24th, 2012
2:41 pm

O’Leary is the genius who ran Underground Atlanta into the ground. Why would anyone listen to him when it comes to the HOPE scholarship or anything else? If casino gambling ever comes to Georgia, make sure he is not allowed anywhere near it unless you want copies of Underground Atlanta all over the state.

Michael Marr

May 24th, 2012
3:26 pm

Those too young, without memories or just plain simple pretend Ga Democrats used to be a bunch of liberals. Re-read (or please read) your Pre-Civil War and Reconstruction history to see why the Dems ruled Ga and the South for 150 years.

Don’t forget the part about elections being decided at the Primary, not the Election in November. And read that Bo Calloway story (Calloway Gardens), that’s a good one.

Libertarian

May 24th, 2012
3:28 pm

We need casino gambling and legalized brothels in Georgia!

Michael Marr

May 24th, 2012
3:29 pm

For those wanting to keep Ga Money in Ga. Prostitution is legal in Nevada so we might as well bring it here, too. Right?

Look before I leap...

May 24th, 2012
3:43 pm

“Prostitution is legal in Nevada so we might as well bring it here, too. Right”

Cuz it’s certainly not happening now in the state, huh?

Mr. D.

May 24th, 2012
3:50 pm

Gambling has never brought anything but misery to any person and state that gets into its clutches. (Mississippi nor Nevada are ding all that wel financially last I checked) To the person who wishesto flee Georgia due to Religious Zealots, at least they care about your immortal soul and want you out of an eternal Devil’s Hell. Sounds like a lot more loving atttude than a bunch of people who wish you to waste your hard earned money in a casino caring nothing about what happens to your family or that same immortal soul in the meantime. Choose Jesus; I will be praying for you

kandie

May 24th, 2012
4:17 pm

I think the response will be “Bring casinos to Georgia.” Why not? Why take our revenue to Mississsippi and North Carolina? It makes no sense. Let’s bring casinos to Georgia.

Centrist

May 24th, 2012
5:35 pm

Testing for censorship.

RGB

May 24th, 2012
6:02 pm

Some folks think that if we just had thousands of video poker machines, a few casinos, Sunday liquor sales, medicinal marijuana, gay “marriage”, free needles, God removed from schools, free contraceptives for teens, 24X7X9 months abortions–we’d be in nirvana.

I, for one, don’t think so. We’re two-thirds there and look at the state of society.

DannyX

May 24th, 2012
7:03 pm

RGB is right, what this country needs is sharia law.

Ashley

May 24th, 2012
7:16 pm

@Kandie…..I agree, then I wouldn’t have to look at all those commercials tempting Georgia dollars away from this state.

Attack Dog

May 24th, 2012
7:32 pm

As long as an political subdivision is run by so-called Southern social conservatives, aka Dixiecrats, its citizens don’t have to worry about Sharia Law. Give their legislators enough time and they will be under nearly every Sharia tenent, but just called another name…Southern Evangelical.