Lawmakers Hear Testimony on Casinos and Gambling

Cindy Morley

Monday, October 21st, 2019

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For the past two days, members of the House Special Committee on Economic Growth have listened to a long trail of speakers that included casino executives, sports betting operators and other key stakeholders — some speaking in favor of legalizing gambling in Georgia and others against the idea. The committee is charged with looking at the economic benefits of allowing gambling in the state.

While much of Tuesday’s testimony featured representatives from casinos and the horse racing industry talking about the benefits of expanding legal gambling, lawmakers heard from the other side Wednesday. They are expected to have another full day of testimony today.

During Wednesday’s testimony lawmakers heard from Mike Griffin of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, who warned of the impact on children that could come as a result of expanded legalized gambling.

“You must look at under-aged gambling, sex trafficking and other issues like that,” said Griffin. “We have to remember that all that glitters is not gold.”

Gretchen Corbin, President and CEO of the Georgia Lottery Corp., also testified in Wednesday’s hearing. She began by giving a historical breakdown of the Georgia Lottery, which was first approved by voters in 1994. Corbin reported that since that time, the Georgia Lottery has raised over $21 billion for education. She added that from 2012 to 2019, returns have increased by 34 percent.

According to Corbin, the FY2019 profit was $63.8 million or 5.6 percent higher than in 2018. She went on to tout the impact the lottery has had on economic development in the state:

● Over 1,000 new millionaires and $46 billion paid in prizes since inception

● $281 million paid in retail commissions in FY19

● $2.88 billion in prizes paid in FY 19

● A skilled and educated workforce

Corbin did add that studies show in most cases lottery revenues see a 3-5 percent drop when legalized gambling is increased in a state.

State. Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah — one of the co-chairs of the House committee — argues that the state already has gambling through the Georgia Lottery, and that he does not think the state should promote one form of gaming over another. He said he would like for the ballot question to be an all or nothing proposition.

During testimony Tuesday, lawmakers heard from representatives from Wynn Resorts, Atlanta Motor Speedway, the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition and others.

Georgia senators also have a special committee studying the potential economic impact of expanding gambling.

Adding horse racing or casino gambling in the state would require Georgians to approve a constitutional amendment allowing the expansion, and that requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber.