Georgia Casino Bill Waits For Its Legislative Moment


ATLANTA — Backers of a casino gambling bill say they are hoping to get some momentum at the Capitol as early as next week to pass the bill before the legislative session ends in March.

It’s been billboarded as one of this legislative session’s biggest issues. Outwardly, there’s been almost no action on the casino gambling bill. Backstage it’s a different story.

The bill’s fate appears to rest, in part, on its potential impact on college scholarships. Backers say casino gambling revenue would actually create a substantial surplus in the state’s HOPE scholarship fund. So the question noodling around backstage is what to do with that surplus. And the bill’s sponsor says the surplus would likely go to a needs-based college scholarship for lower income Georgians.

“Everything now seems to be focused around how we get the needs based piece rolled into the HOPE scholarship,” said Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah). “And we’re going to have to have that in some form to get enough votes to get it passed.”

Stephens says his bill’s fate is also somewhat tied into a horse racing bill that has gotten some traction at the Capitol and may get a vote as early as next week. If horse racing gets momentum, he thinks casino gambling will quickly follow.

Both bills would require two-thirds votes to pass the legislature as constitutional amendments. Voters would have to subsequently approve them for them to become law.


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