By Phil Kent –
The re-tooled 28-page “Destination Resort” constitutional amendment by Sen. Brandon Beach– the word “casino” is never mentioned—is the talk of the Capitol and has elicited a gubernatorial response. In the bill, one site would be slated for the Atlanta area, with a minimum $2 billion investment stipulation; the second resort is allowed in an un-named location somewhere in Georgia with a minimum $450 million investment.
There is no pari-mutuel horse race wagering component, and an identical companion resort bill will be introduced in the House by Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah.
The legislation would create a gaming commission– Beach says its follows the “Nevada model”– with members appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House of Representatives. A payment of 20 percent in state taxes would be levied for these casino/hotel/restaurant/entertainment complexes. (Last year’s legislative version called for a 12 percent tax rate but allowed for six casino-centered resorts.)
Seventy percent of revenues would go toward the popular HOPE college scholarship and 30 percent toward a new “needs-based” student scholarship fund.
“No expenditure of taxpayer money is involved regarding this legislation,” Beach says.
Gov. Nathan Deal, however, issued a cautionary note:
“We need to be absolutely certain that if a casino bill passes, it doesn’t adversely impact a lottery program for the state. That is the first big marker – to make sure that we don’t devastate what is probably perceived as the most successful lottery program in the country.”
A constitutional amendment requires two-thirds approval from each chamber of the General Assembly. If it passes, and proponents say sponsors would have to cobble together a bipartisan vote, it would go on the 2018 general election ballot with or without the governor’s signature. The political entity where the
destination resorts would be located would also have to secure local voter appr