Whenever you hear someone advocate for casinos to be legalized in a certain state or region, the typical reasoning behind the argument is that it will give the state and local governments a sizeable tax boost. After all, in states like Nevada, New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, the tax dollars created by casinos have gone a long way in funding public education, infrastructure, and so much more. The argument touched upon above is one that is currently unfolding in Georgia, and a new study conducted by an Atlanta business group says that while tax revenues might be boosted, so too will the costs paid out by the government should casinos be legalized.
For those who may be unaware, the state of Georgia is one of the most restrictive of all the 50 states as far as gambling is concerned. At the present moment in time, the words “casino” and “Georgia” rarely are used in the same sentence, unless, of course, we are talking about how Georgia currently outlaws casinos. Even though Georgia has long been an opponent of legalized casino-style gambling, there are movements being started to push for legalization.
On Wednesday, the effort to legalize casinos in the state of Georgia was delivered a large blow by a group known as Central Atlanta Progress. The blow was delivered by way of the second part of a two-part study which showed the large, often undiscussed problems and costs that could be created by a legalized casino industry.
The main ramification that the study uncovered is that funds that would be used by patrons at casinos are funds that otherwise would have been spent at local businesses, restaurants, and museums. So while people are pointing to the huge increase in tax revenue casinos would create, the study is quick to point out that much of that revenue would have inevitably been collected via other means.
What’s more, even though the existence of casinos would do well to create a bunch of additional revenue for the state as a whole, it is local governments that will suffer. The reason for this is due to the increased police presence and resources to help gambling addicts; both of which would require money from local governments. To break the large study down, it basically says that while the state will see more money come in, local governments will see more money leave. So, on the surface, legalized casinos seem like a benefit for everyone, but the reality can be much different for the towns and cities that casinos call home. Unless Georgia legislators draft provisions that see host communities given a large percentage of the revenue they create, cities that have casinos may see their financial situation turned upside down in the worst of ways.
The state government has just recently returned for a new session, and even though the topic of legalized casinos has not come up quite yet, there is a strong feeling it will be a heavily debated topic throughout the whole year. Does this report necessarily mean that casinos are always a burden on the communities that host them? Far from it. But what this study does is give lawmakers some insight as to how they can legalize casinos all while working to not compromise the financial standing of the communities which host them.