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House 34 District Candidates Speak of Legislative Pressures on Gambling


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May 31 — EDITOR’S NOTE — The MDJ sent six questions to each candidate in the June 15 special election to succeed former State Representative Bert Reeves, R-Marietta. The questions were the same for each candidate and candidates had to limit their answers to 250 words. This is the fourth installment in the six-part series.

At each session, the General Assembly debates the question of gambling in Georgia (around ten bills during the last session), dealing with casinos, online betting, sports and pari-mutuel, etc. Do you support the legalization of more forms of gambling in the state of Georgia?

DAVID BLINKHORN (R):

I oppose legalized gambling in Georgia. Beyond the moral objections I have to this expansion as a Christian of deep faith, I also have important public policy objections.

Studies have shown that personal bankruptcies are increasing in communities that have seen the expansion of gambling. These bankruptcies are often the result of debts directly associated with gambling addiction, but can in many cases be attributed to debt negligence. personalities that exist independent of any gambling. However, individuals will neglect these debts (such as houses, cars and student loans) to finance the chance to “make a big splash.”

The honest truth behind the expansion of gambling is that private casino conglomerates see our state as an “untapped market” where billions of dollars can be won off the backs of the people who can least afford it. There is no significant documented benefit, and when politicians say it brings in more ‘income’ they are simply saying they are refusing to prioritize public spending in a way that actually invests in the community. . It is easier to promise people a “yes” than having to explain a “no” when they ask for more taxpayer money.

SAM HENSLEY JR. (RE):

The genius of legal gambling was unleashed a long time ago when Georgia approved the lottery. This industry has been sold as a state-controlled method of financing higher education, which it has to a large extent. The Hope Scholarship is extremely popular among Georgians. As state and local governments seek ways to address income and budget deficits, other forms of gambling become more attractive. Casinos and mutual betting could create jobs, increase the tax base and encourage more tourism in our state. While I would consider supporting more forms of legalized gambling, they should (be) tightly regulated and likely be required to devote a portion of the revenue to funding education and treating gambling addiction.

CHRIS NEILL (L):

Gambling is already legal in Georgia, and the State Lottery is a closely guarded government monopoly that is hailed as a secure and voluntary source of income. But lottery players are typically older, poorer, and less educated, leading to fears of exploitation just for being bad at math. Compare this grim reality with the fact that in 2019, roughly 44% of American adults visited a casino, generating over $ 40 billion in gambling revenue as well as countless billions in additional tourism spending and business opportunities. employment. Due to COVID, the online gambling market in the United States has grown to nearly $ 2 billion in 2020. Georgia would be wise to consider opening up competition in gambling instead of allowing most. those dollars to go to other states.

DEVAN (R) SEASIDE BOARD:

There have been dozens of proposals in recent years regarding the expansion of gambling in Georgia. Once elected, I will have to review the proposals on the table and assess what is best for our community and our state. I don’t want Georgia to be the next Las Vegas with big casinos in communities like ours. In other states that have expanded casino gaming, it has been adopted on the basis of promises of billions in new revenue that have not been kept. In most of the proposals in recent years, that decision would be left to the voters, and if the folks at HD 34 want to vote on the issue, I won’t oppose it. However, I am open to measured approaches that would expand our existing lottery, to include sports betting, provided that the income generated is spent on strengthening and safeguarding the HOPE scholarship for future generations of Georgians.

PRISCILLA SMITH (D):

I played poker. I lost money because of the one-armed bandit. I don’t like him enough for this to be a problem. My adrenaline rush comes from acting, laughing, or running for office. I guess adults’ freedom to spend time and money gambling should depend on them. So when we expand gambling in Georgia, once it gets put on a ballot, we need to get it to help pay those who fall prey to problem gambling with a fee or a “percentage for mental health tax.” “. And these amounts should not be limited to mental health problems related only to gambling. After all, most people for whom gambling is a problem have other mental and emotional problems. We exploit the most economically disadvantaged to fund our state scholarships and pre-K, so gamers can make mental health care more accessible. And let’s save some of those dollars to help create a steady stream of income for art and artists. I’m going to play blackjack knowing that part of my loss goes to pay for a play in Kennesaw, a concert in Marietta, or an art teacher in Cobb schools.

And a caveat: Big name casinos that bring in big name performers can have a real negative effect on places like the Cobb Energy Center. MGM (and others) place restrictions on artist contracts that prevent that artist from performing anywhere within a defined radius of the casino. It could be a problem.

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