February 10, 2017 Radio Commentary

Do you want a casino in your back yard?

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, February 10, 2017 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

If the 2015 casino bills had passed, six casinos would be sprinkled around the state, already, and the State Constitution would be listing all 159 counties, divided into six districts, to indicate where each of the six casinos would be built. Thankfully, those bills died and the state has no casinos, but here we go, again.

This year’s bills are less up-front than the others. The current ones refer to “destination resorts,” and describe them as developments for shopping and entertainment, convention halls and hotels that just happen to have space for a business called “gaming.” So, Georgians are supposed to swallow the notion that this is nothing new, all is well, and nothing will change … although there will be an around-the-clock every-day-of-the-year gambling area, to accommodate folks who want in-state casinos!

Representative Ron Stephens introduced H.B. 158 and Senator Brandon Beach introduced S.B. 79. They are identical bills; both are called the “Destination Resort Act;” both create casino gambling; and both create a five-member Georgia Gaming Commission. The governor appoints three members, the lieutenant governor appoints one and the House Speaker appoints one. That means, the sitting governor will control the commission.The commission would establish the Destination Resort Trust Fund to receive excise taxes, fees, and other substantial revenue, which includes a nonrefundable $1 million fee to cover background checks for the applicant and any associates. The application fee is $50 million, that $50 million with an “m” is the price of applying for a license to build a destination resort complex that must have a casino.

The annual renewal fee is another $5 million, plus $250,000 annually for regulatory fees, plus 20 percent gross tax on annual receipts. Applicants for jobs will be fingerprinted and pay $250 for a job for four years; 21-year-olds can work in gambling areas and 18-year-olds in non-gambling areas. To do business with the complex, suppliers pay a $5,000 license fee and a $5,000.00 renewal-of-license fee every year.

The GBI will be investigating, regulating, policing, and monitoring the casinos (24 hours a day, 365 days a year) in real-time, while trying to keep a lid on crime.

Think about this: While casinos are expected to be healthy cash cows for government, the culture that’s being “milked” will be suffering the inevitable consequences. Call 404 656-5143* and ask Representative Maxwell to stop H.B. 158 in committee. Then, call 404 463-1376* and ask Senator Jeffares to stop S.B. 79 in his committee. For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.