Georgia Landowners Woo Las Vegas Casino Giants as Lawmakers Gear Up for New Gambling Legalization Push

Landowners move to lure Las Vegas developers ahead of expected revival of the casino legalization debate in Georgia’s Legislature

Several Georgia landowners have hired a veteran commercial real estate specialist to woo Las Vegas casino operators to potentially expand their foothold to the state, even though casino gambling is prohibited under current laws, local media outlet Bisnow reports.

Recurring efforts for the legalization of Las Vegas-style gaming options have failed in Georgia’s legislation, but news have emerged that a state lawmaker plans to rekindle the casino debate during the next legislative session. According to local media, Rep. Ron Stephens is going to introduce a bill allowing for the development of up to three casino resorts in the state.

The latest casino legalization effort occurred (and failed) during this year’s legislative session. A bill that would have allowed for the construction of two integrated resorts with casino-style gaming options was spearheaded by Sen. Brandon Beach, a long-time supporter of gambling expansion in the state. While this year’s push may have failed, Sen. Beach has said that the mid-May ruling of the US Supreme Court that lifted the federal sports betting ban could actually help Georgia legalize casino and other gambling options.

In a detailed report from Friday, news outlet Bisnow wrote that while casinos are yet to receive much-needed approval from the Legislature, local landowners have already begun luring Las Vegas gambling operators, offering portions of land where casino resorts could be built.

Where Could Casinos Be Built in Georgia and What Would Their Economic Impact Be?

Previous legislative efforts have been crafted to call for the legalization of casinos within larger integrated resorts rather than standalone gaming facilities. It is believed that future attempts by lawmakers will propose the same type of developments.

Bisnow reported on Friday that a number of landowners from across Georgia have hired Rick Lackey, the founder of City Commercial Real Estate, to lure Las Vegas gaming and hospitality operators with attractive plots of land where destination resorts could be developed.

It has also emerged that Mr. Lackey has been in Las Vegas over the past week to meet with various major companies and discuss the potential of developments in the state. The real estate veteran has presented operators with four sites, each one occupying at least 100 acres of land, which would be enough to accommodate major destination resorts with casino facilities.

According to Bisnow, the first site pitched by landowners as a potential host to a casino resort includes 300 acres of land owned by the city of College Park and known as Airport City. The parcel is located not far from Harsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and according to experts, a potential destination resort development could capitalize on airport traffic and the flow of international visitors.

The second parcel spreads over 500 acres just off Interstate 85 and along Lake Hartwell. The third site includes 320 acres of land 10 miles from Downtown Savannah. The final sites occupies 300 acres of land right across the Great Wolf Lodge Resort in La Grange.

Commenting on his visit to Las Vegas, Mr. Lackey told Bisnow that while he has been received cordially by operators, they have remained reticent.

“The response has generally been, ‘Thanks for coming, I like the sites, but I’m really not interested in talking until there’s a clear path for legislation,'” Mr. Lackey said.

Some major gambling companies have previously expressed interest in setting foot in Georgia, with MGM Resorts International being one such company. In 2015, the Las Vegas giant proposed the construction of a $1-billion integrated resort in downtown Atlanta. However, the lack of legislative action seems to have killed developers’ enthusiasm.

According to a study by the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition from earlier this year, an Atlanta-based destination resort with a racetrack and casino, among a number of other facilities, could generate an economic impact of over $1.2 billion every year.

Supporters of the legalization of casinos in the state have pointed out that the facilities could contribute funds to the cash-strapped HOPE Scholarship, which rewards students seeking a college or university degree with financial assistance. Some analysts believe that the scholarship will run out of money in about a decade.

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