ATLANTA -- Casino gambling money in Georgia could benefit health care in addition to college scholarship. That’s a change pitched Thursday in a controversial casino gambling bill in the legislature now.
A casino in Atlanta would create five thousand jobs-- and, backers say – and a second casino in another Georgia city would create thousands more.
"This is definitely a job creating bill. The other thing is there will be no public money, no tax incentives. This is all private dollars," Sen Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) told the Senate Regulated Industries committee Thursday.
But in a packed committee room, opponents told lawmakers that casinos would spread gambling addiction and bankruptcy.
"The costs involved are significant. The moral costs, and the devastation of families is very very significant ," said Dr. Robert White of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.
The bill would allow no more than two casinos in Georgia – with a two billion dollar investment required for an Atlanta casino. It would enact a twenty percent state tax on earnings. Half that money would benefit HOPE, thirty percent would go to a needs- based scholarship. And a now, a 20 percent portion would help fund rural health care needs.
Although backers say casinos would be a boon to Georgia tourism, a study conducted by a downtown Atlanta business group warned most of the wagering would come from local residents.
"That is a fact. You can go to Vegas maybe, and it’s all about tourism. But everywhere else it’s been introduced, it’s really about locals," said AJ Robinson of Central Atlanta Progress.
Robinson said Central Atlanta progress says it’s officially neutral on the casino bill. The committee held no vote on the bill Thursday.