ATLANTA -- A Senate committee abruptly cancelled a vote on a casino gambling bill Thursday as its sponsor scrambled to rewrite it.
The cancelation is significant because the bill will be essentially dead if it doesn’t get a committee vote by Tuesday morning.
"It was not going to be ready in time," said the bill's sponsor Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), who has been scrambling to rewrite the bill to line up more "yes" votes in the Senate's Regulated Industries Committee.
"We’re working on shoring up the votes" Beach said. "The devil is in the details."
Those details have changed a lot. What started as a measure to shore up the HOPE scholarship for Georgia college students has become a bit of a grab bag. The new casino bill promises
- 30 percent of it's state tax revenue revenue for HOPE
- 30 percent for needs-based college scholarships
- 15 percent for rural health care
- 15 percent for trauma centers
- 5 percent for rural broadband internet
- 2.5 percent for law enforcement
- 2.5 percent for substance abuse programs.
"We’re not only getting spring in February, we’re getting Christmas," chortled Mike Griffin, a casino opponent who lobbies for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. He likens the bill's new spending promises to Christmas presents for undecided lawmakers.
"The Christmas tree is full of ornaments because it’s apparent they’re having a hard time selling this because they know it’s going to hurt families," Griffin said. Opponents say casinos would spread gambling addiction and bankruptcy, among other social ills.
But backers say Georgia casinos will create thousands of jobs. Thursday’s aborted hearing is now scheduled for Monday. If it has a chance, it has to get a favorable committee vote by 10am Tuesday.