ATLANTA (WXIA) — Several recent reports have seen major casinos showing interest in the state of Georgia, both in downtown Atlanta and at Turner Field. Gambling is illegal in Georgia, and Governor Nathan Deal has said he has no desire to change that. But is his stance changing?
“I am opposed to casino gambling,” Governor Deal reiterated Monday. “I think it does not offer benefits that outweigh the negatives.”
Deal then offered a caveat.
“Once you have the vote of the people,” he said, “and it expresses the will of the people of this state, that certainly puts implementing legislation in a different light.”
Basically, he said, if the people want casinos, he might not prevent them. This would require two parts, the first being a Constitutional amendment to legalize gambling. That would require a two-thirds majority from the state House and Senate. It would then go to a vote from the public — no governor’s signature required.
The second part? Legislation to grant permission for casinos.
“I don’t have to sign anything for it to become law,” Deal said.
He simply needs to get out of the way. When a bill comes to his desk, the governor can either sign it or veto it. But he can also do nothing – stand by for 40 days – and the bill automatically becomes law without his signature.
Is Deal surprised that the casino industry has shown interest in Georgia despite his protestations?
“No, it doesn’t surprise me at all,” said the governor. “They’re willing to take the gamble.”
None of this, of course, would happen until the legislature begins its 2016 session. That’s six months for those in favor of gambling to build support from the state House and Senate.