Athens, Ga. — One alternative to the budget problem may be casino gambling. One proposal is to legalize casino gambling with the money going towards the HOPE scholarship. The issue has both residents and public officials split. Some say it’s an issue of morality, while others say it may be a way to save higher education.
The Georgia Lottery is the sole contributor to the HOPE scholarship. With more HOPE money going out than coming in, students and their parents fear the scholarship will disappear.
Underground Atlanta owner Dan O’Leary believes he has a solution. His proposal is a 1-billion dollar gambling complex in Gwinnett County, with some of the revenue going towards higher education. O’Leary says the proposal is projected to generate $700 million in revenue, with half the funding going to the HOPE scholarship. This would increase HOPE funding by 40%.
What’s being proposed isn’t your average Las Vegas casino. O’Leary describes it as a video lottery terminal; he says it could be compared to an electronic scratch-off ticket. Many University of Georgia students seem to be in favor of this proposal.
“The decline in HOPE is hurting some of us and that would be huge,” one student said referring to legalizing gambling in order to increase funding for HOPE. Another student asked, “the lottery revenue goes towards HOPE, so why not gambling as well?”
Governor Nathan Deal has taken a strong stand against gambling and disapproves of O’Leary’s proposal. Other state officials agree with Deal, saying bringing gambling to Georgia would be toxic for the state.
“My concern is, let’s not even start down that road,” said Tim Echols, the Chairman of the Georgia Public Service Commission. “Let’s not build our public policy on something slippery like casino gambling. It’s proven to attract drugs, prostitution and organized crime. Let’s not invite more that into Georgia. We don’t have to do that.”
The proposal may have moved Georgia a step closer to legalizing gambling, but we may be farther away than we think. A two-thirds vote in the House and Senate, the ratification by the voters in the ballot box and the Georgia Lottery Board’s approval are all required for legalization.
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