Debate over proposed Gwinnett Co. gambling facility continues



A four-diamond resort in Delaware is serving as the model for a proposed $1 billion gambling complex in Gwinnett County.

Channel 2’s Jim Strickland traveled to Dover Downs to take a look inside the facility, which is home to video lottery terminals that function as slot machines.

Dover Downs CEO Ed Sutor, a 35-year veteran of the casino industry, has signed on to design and operate a $1 billion gaming hotel complex in Gwinnett County. The plan includes converting a mostly vacant manufacturing facility in Norcross.

Projections show the video machines would attract more than $7 billion a year in betting, of which players would win back around 90 percent.

People who visit the gaming complex -- an average of 24,000 a day -- are expected to lose $80 each.

The Georgia Lottery would control the machines and the money they take in, collecting 50 percent.

“On an annual basis, it will provide $350 million to the HOPE Scholarship,” developer Dan O’Leary said. O’Leary said he is willing to bet a lot of money on that fact.

The other $350 million would go to O’Leary to pay for operations of the facility -- including 2,500 employees and a management fee for Dover Downs.

Dover Chamber of Commerce president Judy Diogo said Georgia could expect bonus benefits, such as an increase in visitors to other Atlanta attractions, like the Georgia Aquarium.

“When folks come to game, a lot of the time they bring their families, so you have one person who’s gaming, and the rest are visiting. They’re out seeing what the community has,” Diogo said.

Among the tourists Dover has hosted are  slew of Gwinnett County commissioners, community leaders and the Gwinnett County police chief.

The Gwinnettians met with former Dover Police Chief James Hutchison. He was the mayor when Dover Downs opened and said he feared the facility would bring seediness to his city.

“In 10 years as mayor of the city of Dover, we experienced none of the types of concerns that I had as a former police chief,” Hutchison said.


O’Leary is concerned with the image the project conveys. He refuses to call it a casino.

Sutor said the Delaware Lottery felt the same way until he convinced it that casino is not a four-letter word.

“We’re no longer Dover Downs Slots. That implies an inferior, second-class facility,” Sutor said.

The Georgia Lottery Board said it will not green light any gaming plan without the governor’s support, which it has not received.

Hutchison said Gov. Nathan Deal should pay a visit to Dover Downs.

“He owes it to himself. He owes it to the state of Georgia to look at it firsthand because I think this is something that could work for the HOPE Scholarship and the people of the state of Georgia,” Hutchison said.

In two weeks, Republican voters will see a question on their primary ballot asking, “Should Georgia have casino gambling with funds going to education?”

O’Leary said the wording of the question is flawed. He focused on bringing millions of dollars into the HOPE Scholarship fund.

Last year, the state doled out $531 million in lottery-funded scholarships, down more than $200 million from the year before.

Projections for this year have the number rising slightly but still not as high as in previous years.