Are casinos on their way to Georgia?

Georgia State Capitol
A view of the Georgia State Capitol on Jan. 5, 2017. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

ATLANTA ( — A bill pending in the state legislature would legalize a pair of resort-style casinos in Georgia.

Senate Bill 79, known as the Destination Resort Act, would create the Georgia Gaming Commission. Modeled after Nevada’s Gaming Commission, the commission would include five members appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the state house.

Under the draft, a county with a population of more than 900,000 residents and with an investment of at least $2 billion would receive one of the licenses. The development must include a hotel with at least 1,000 rooms.

According to state population estimates, the only county with more than 900,000 residents is Fulton County, which is where Atlanta is located. Underground Atlanta, which the city is currently selling to a private developer, has long been discussed as a potential site of a casino.

The second license would be for a county with a population of more than 250,000 residents, but not more than 900,000. That resort requires an investment of at least $450 million.

According to state population estimates, five counties in Georgia meet the population requirements for the second license. Of those five, only Chatham County, where Savannah, Ga., is located, is located outside of Metro Atlanta.

“Casino style gaming is a large tourism and revenue building market that Georgia is missing out on,” state Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, said in a news release. “The two proposed destination resorts will not only bring tourism to our great state, they will bring more than 5,000 jobs and unparalleled capital that will go directly towards funding the HOPE Scholarship and other education programs in Georgia. This is a win-win situation and I’m eager to get the ball rolling on its passage.”

State Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, introduced House Bill 158, a companion bill to SB 79.

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