Georgia Is Considering 6-Casino Licensing Bill and MGM Resorts Wants an Atlanta Casino
Georgia has a bill moving through its state legislature which would provide up to six land-based casino licenses. MGM Resorts International wants in on the ground floor of Georgia’s casino gambling, and has pledged to build a $1 billion gaming complex in Downtown Atlanta.
MGM Resorts is one of the big four American casino gambling companies, alongside Caesars Entertainment, Wynn Resorts, and Las Vegas Sands Corporation. The company’s CEO, James Murren, said last month MGM Resorts would not build another gaming resort on the Las Vegas Strip during his tenure as the chief executive. Instead, the company most famous for the MGM Grand and Bellagio is set to build in points across America, as well as overseas locations.
MGM Resorts’ Current Developments
MGM Resorts won the right to build a casino in Springfield, Massachusetts, which has the Foxwoods Casino and Mohegan Sun of Connecticut worried about competition. The company also is building a $1.2 billion casino project outside Washington, called the “National Harbor” project.
Jim Murren also has discussed building in North Jersey, if the state of New Jersey ever approves casinos outside Atlantic City. MGM Resorts also has major operations in China’s gaming capital of Macau, while it is planning another development on Macau’s trendy Cotai Peninsula. The company is ready to propose a development if Japan ever approves casino gambling, while it is talking with developers in South Korea for an Incheon Airport development. MGM Resorts is a major developer.
Georgia Legislature Must Approve
The plan for Georgia has at least one big obstacle: the Georgia State Legislature needs to approve casinos in the first place. Southern states tend to have social conservative views on gambling and Georgia is no different. Only casino cruises which go out beyond the 3-mile limit, into international waters, are allowed to operate.
But according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, in the past week, there are clear signs that Georgia’s lawmakers are starting to line up behind a 6-casino gaming bill. MGM Resorts has hired 5 lobbyists to help with passage of the bill.
Proposed by Ron Stephens
Economic Development Committee Chairman Ron Stephens proposed the bill, which would require a two-thirds agreement by legislators. If that were to happen, then the 6-casino proposal would go on the November 2015 ballot for a statewide referendum.
If the referendum gained the support it needed, then the state gaming authorities would institute a licensing process. In most other states, the licensing process involves a signficant application fee (between $1 million and $5 million), followed by lobbying, presentations before state officials, and formal development proposals. The licensing process often takes 1 to 2 years.
Georgia Licensing Plan
In the case of Georgia, the state would be divided into five zones. Presumably, each zone would receive 1 to 2 casinos, with no more than six casino licenses issued in the state. The Georgia Lottery Corp would handle regulatory oversight of the various casinos. The State Lottery Board, which was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal, would oversee the licensing process.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the tax revenues from the casinos would go to support the HOPE Scholarship, which pays in-state tuition for students attending technical institutes and state universities. Thus, casino gambling would provide hundreds of millions of dollars to lower the cost of higher education in Georgia, while helping students avoid the worst excesses of the student loan process.
MGM Resorts’ Interest in Atlanta
Reports have surfaced in recent months that MGM Resorts is interested in Atlanta, enough so that it has been scouting locations. A spokesman for MGM Resorts confirmed the company’s interest, but said their investigations represent “the very preliminary stages” of any development process. No doubt, other large-scale gaming companies would have an interest and the Atlanta area represents the largest prize on the potential casino development landscape.
MGM Resorts suggested $1 billion gaming complex would contain more than a gaming floor. It would fall under the category of an “integrated resort”, meaning it would have a luxury hotel, entertainment complex, and significant shopping area. Essentially, the casino would be the centerpiece of a city economic development project. A theoretical MGM Atlanta Casino would create 3,500 permanent jobs.
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