don’t bet on it

Hard Rock Casino by Ted Murphy

For years now, the gambling business has had its eye on Georgia. It recognizes Georgia as a state with a growing population, and therefore, one they see as a target. They aim at establishing gambling in Georgia, to enrich, of course, their own coffers, while promoting that it will bring in more state revenue.

What this gambling group may not recognize is that Georgia is basically made up of solid, conservative, faith-based families who cast an askance glance at such sins as gambling.

Not only that, but Georgia already has enough, if not too much, gambling here, with our own Lotto (Georgia Lottery), aimed at funding more basic education through the Hope Scholarship. Though the Georgia Lottery seeks to raise more revenue through professional gambling, Georgians should not fall for that hoax.

Historically, earlier efforts at gambling have been aiming to get the Georgia Legislature to adopt legislation to allow horse-racing within our state. This goes back at least to the 1960-70s era. One reason promoted to allow wagering on horse races was that the horse industry was well-established in our state, so why not go to the next logical step and allowing betting on it? This referred to Hawkinsville being the center in Georgia for winter pasturing of horses involved in harness racing. So, the thinking went, if Georgia is already benefitting from having horses wintered here, why not extend that and allow betting on regular horse racing, too?

The reality is that the wintering of harness racing horses is a relatively small industry in our state. Also note that the horse owners came to Georgia on their own, without anyone handing out incentives to be here. They came for the mild winter weather, and that it would not be as costly to winter horses here than in other places.

Meanwhile, other states around Georgia allow gambling in various forms, so why not offer it to Georgians, especially aiming at the bulk of the population in Atlanta. A site in Gwinnett was at one time proposed for a big gambling arena. And the already-failed Underground Atlanta venue has constantly been proposed for some upstart facility, including a gambling hall.

Recently the gambling (not gaming) industry has suggested that Georgia is an ideal spot (for them) for a big-time casino, such as in Las Vegas, Biloxi or Atlantic City. After all, they reason, Atlanta is a big convention facility, and it would be a “natural” and relatively sure way to success.

But it would also invite people to the gambling parlors whom many Georgians would not welcome. Is it worth it?

We think not. So let’s give a big “Hip-Hip-Hooray” to Gov. Nathan Deal for his comment last week about gambling. He said, happily, “Don’t bet on it.” We agree.

He added: “This is not something I view as positive. I do not think it improves the quality of life for our citizens. And in my opinion it has very little redeeming value.”

That’s what we feel a big majority of the people also do not want. It’s just not the way many Georgians think and act.

It started with allowing horse racing, and now has moved to bring in a full time casino, all in the name of enhancing state revenues. Georgia does not need that type of money, nor the people associated with it.

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Editor's Note: This story first appeared at the Gwinnett Forum. Image: Hard Rock Casino by Ted Murphy via flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.
Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County, http://www.gwinnettforum.com, and Georgia news, http://www.georgiaclips.com.