ATLANTA — A bill that would have allowed casino gambling in Georgia is dead for this year.
The sponsor of Senate Bill 79, Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, told Channel 2's Richard Elliot that he does not have the votes to get the bill out of committee.
“I am not discouraged,” Beach told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I will double down and plan to crisscross the state starting in April” to build support for the bill in 2018.
Beach's original plan called for up to six casinos and a horse racing track in the state. He eventually reduced that to no more than two destination resort casinos; one in the Metro Atlanta area and another in a smaller, secondary city like Savannah or Columbus.
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The bill required the casinos to pay 20 percent of gambling revenues to the state to help pay for HOPE scholarships, needs-based scholarships and pre-K programs.
Beach said he plans to spend this year educating the state about the bill by visiting local Rotary Clubs and speaking with education leaders, hospital administrators and anyone else who will listen, to garner public backing.
“I do think we have the votes,” Beach said. We feel very confident we have the votes on the Senate floor, but you have to get it out of committee to get it to the floor.”
State Rep. Ron Stephens' version of the bill is technically still alive but without Senate support, and even he conceded some defeat.
“We will not give up on these kids,” Stephens said. “We will not give up on the HOPE scholarship, the HOPE grant and pre-k funding and, as it continues to dwindle. We'll be back again.”
Mike Griffin, of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said social and economic conservatives joined to defeat the bill because they both think it's bad for Georgia.
“We can be thankful that legislators during this session have given an ear to understand that the end does not always justify the means and that we can't always put and should never put money over morality,” Griffin said.
Information from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was used in this report.
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