Investigation shows Georgians spend millions at out-of-state casinos

by: Jim Strickland Updated:

Research obtained by Channel 2 consumer investigator Jim Strickland shows Georgians by the thousands, and their money in the millions, are pouring into out-of-state casinos.

ATLANTA - Research obtained by Channel 2 consumer investigator Jim Strickland shows Georgians by the thousands, and their money in the millions, are pouring into out-of-state casinos.

Voters faced a ballot question Tuesday about casinos for Georgia.

One GOP voter and gambling fanatic showed Strickland a picture of her and group of gamblers boarding a private jet, heading to the Super Bowl. Allison Caldwell has the tickets framed. It was paid for in full by Harrah's Cherokee Casino in North Carolina, where Caldwell enjoys a player's highest rating of seven stars.

"Are you a Republican?," Strickland asked.

"I certainly am."

Caldwell is also a donor to casino opponent Gov. Nathan Deal and a Baptist too.

"I do not feel what I'm doing is sinful. I'm doing it as entertainment, strictly," she said.

That's why Caldwell has no qualms about winning $11,000 in a single jackpot last weekend, but breaking even for the trip.

Her play at Harrah's earned her not just the Super Bowl, but a free IPad, plus Gucci and Louis Vitton merchandise. She says most her casino friends are Georgians.

"There's Georgia money in that casino, and guess where it's going: the state of North Carolina. Not one penny of it is coming back home here where we need it," she lamented.

A study from the University of North Carolina shows in 2010 Metro Atlantans lost $56,573,000 at Harrah's.


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Nearly $21,000,000 came more from Athens and Augusta gamblers. Roughly 1 in 5 dollars lost at Harrah's in 2010 was lost by a Georgian.

"People are leaving our state, spending their hard earned dollars elsewhere, and the earnings and profits and tax dollars are going elsewhere and not here in Georgia," said Channel 2 consumer adviser Clark Howard. Howard said local citizens should have the right to decide whether to allow casinos in their areas.

Caldwell says she'd rather her loses benefit the HOPE scholarship, and benefit families who may in fact be opposed to gambling.

"If you don't want my money, and you don't want me to help you send your kids to college, I'm sorry. I'm trying," she said.

A proposed gaming project in Gwinnett county would use lottery-controlled slots and aims to raise $350 million annual for HOPE. The lottery board refuses to endorse that or any project over the governor's objections.

Caldwell says she would be willing to once again take a slice of her winnings and donate them to Deal with a note attached, asking him to rethink his stance on casinos.