Just in case you had not noticed, the casino industry has its sights on Georgia and has some high-powered hired help to push the issue through the legislative process. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Haley Barbour, former chair of the Republican National Committee and former Mississippi governor made a courtesy call on Gov. Deal last month. They are long time friends, however, Barbour is now a registered lobbyist for a doctors’ group and Wynn Resorts, the company that operates properties in Las Vegas and China, according to its website.
Barbour is not the only lobbyist working the deal (no pun intended), in fact there’s a small army according to the AJC, representing MGM Resorts International, Las Vegas Sands, Penn National Gaming, Elite Casino Resorts, Boyd Gaming Corp. and others. Even Sheldon Adelson, who runs Sands, met with Deal in 2015, according to the AJC.
Nothing illegal about any of this. Last year Gov. Deal was opposed because agreement couldn’t be reached for the gambling firms to put at least 24 percent of their gross profits into education. This year, he’s not as opposed. He still recognizes the threat casinos could have on the state lottery that funds the HOPE scholarship program.
We’re not taking a stand one way or the other at this time about casinos. However, a spirited public debate is warranted and a realistic look needs to be taken — without the influence of campaign contributions and other incentives — as to whether casino gambling would be good for the state of Georgia.
That spirited debate can’t take place as long as quiet is kept under the Gold Dome. As some point the debate has to come under the scrutiny of public light.