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Feb. 27 - Casino Bills DEAD for this year in the General Assembly

Category: Georgia Business News

by Lou Phelps, Savannah Business Journal

February 27, 2017 – State Sen. Brandon Beach (R), representing Alpharetta, and the co-sponsor with State. Rep. Ron Stephens of Chatham and Bryan County, has told Atlanta media outlets that the casino bill is dead for this year.

Sen. Beach had filed the Senate version and Rep. Stephens had filed the House version, which differed in several significant areas.

Two weeks ago, Stephens told the SBJ that he was short between 7 to 17 votes in the House, and still had an uphill battled getting the bill through the Senate. 

The bills would have put the question of forming a Georgia Gaming Commission and bringing at least two casinos to Georgia on the ballot in November 2018.

Insiders said that Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle was not in support of the legislation that would have put the question on the ballot when he was running for Governor, an already-announced candidate for the seat that will be vacated by Gov. Nathan Deal who is term-limited from running again.

Sen. Beach told the AJC that “he does not have the votes to get Senate Bill 79 out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee,” much less through the Senate body, itself, according to a story published today. But, he said that he will work on the bill again next year.

When the Joint House/Senate Study Committee criss-crossed the state last year to hold hearing, Rep. Stephens was promoting four to six casinos and para-mutual horse racing to fund the HOPE Scholarship.

The two bills filed had reduced the number down to two casinos, and no horse racing, and added that some of the money expected to be received by the Gaming Commission, including the initial $50 million licensing fees, added that some of the money would have gone to support rural Georgia Hospitals.

The Democratic Caucus in the House and Senate got the bills amended to have some of the HOPE Scholarship money to go to “needs-based” students, versus merit only awards to any student with a ‘B’ average. 

An attempt to reach Rep. Stephens was unsuccessful.

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