Consider this another sure-fire sign that the push to legalize gambling will resurface next year: James Murren, the chief executive of MGM Resorts International, is slated to speak Monday at the Rotary Club of Atlanta.
An army of lobbyists – about three dozen of them – was deployed earlier this year, during the past session of the Legislature, to push for a gambling expansion in Georgia. Sixteen advocates wre hired by MGM, which had already begun scouting sites to build a $1 billion gambling resort downtown.
A constitutional amendment to allow up to four casinos – two in metro Atlanta – failed to gain traction in this year’s legislative session amid opposition from Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston.
But that was only the opening skirmish, and casino advocates are already laying the groundwork for Round Two. Recall the analysis released in August that asserts that Georgia’s popular HOPE scholarship could run short of cash when today’s pre-K students are in college.
The report, by a pro-casino group called The Committee to Preserve HOPE Scholarships, was quickly distributed across the statehouse to try to build support for legislation that could pump the state’s coffers with new scholarship revenue.
Murren and his allies will have to counter another analysis featuring a whopping number: $1 billion. That’s the record sum the Georgia Lottery raised for education programs over the last fiscal year.