Georgia’s casino bill is expected to be introduced any day now by State Senator Brandon Reach (R-Alpharetta), reigniting the longstanding debate about legalizing casino gambling in the state.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston unsure about casinos despite public support

Despite popular support, Georgia State House Speaker David Ralston has said he’s not sure that “casinos in Georgia are consistent with where we want to be as a state.” (Image: Alchetron.com)

Reach’s bill will propose the authorization of up to five casinos and one new horseracing track. In order to pass this year, it would need the approval of two-thirds of the House and Senate.

Beyond that, because the authorization of casinos would require an amendment to Georgia’s constitution, the issue would go to a public referendum, in 2018.

Whether the bill can gather the necessary support in the legislature remains to be seen, but according to a new poll, the public support is there.

56 Percent Approval

The poll, conducted last week by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, found that 56 percent of registered voters supported the idea, with only 38 percent opposed.

Of course, as recent landmark political events have shown us, polls aren’t always to be trusted, but the results will be encouraging for casino proponents. Even if every undecided voter ultimately made their mind up to vote against casinos, the result would still be positive, even accounting for the four percent margin of error.   

Furthermore, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has no vested interest in the results of the casino question, which was asked, in plain language, among several other questions related to political and social topics relevant to Georgia voters. 

Tough Road Ahead

But the bill will face forceful opposition from powerful conservative groups and faith leaders, not to mention Governor Nathan Deal, who has expressed his disapproval.

“We’ve got a lot of decisions we have to make,” House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) told reporters last week. “I’m not sure we’ll be able to make them all this session. And I’m still not sure that casinos in Georgia are consistent with where we want to be as a state.”

Beach, naturally, is focusing on the economic benefits for the state. “What would Georgia leaders say if a company wanted to invest more than $1 billion on a new business, give 5,000 people jobs and not ask for a dime of public money to help?” he asked the Journal-Constitution. “We’d be rolling out the red carpet.

“I’m a Republican,” he added. “There’s nothing more Republican or more conservative than allowing the voters to decide if they would like to pursue this.”