The popularity of gambling options in the United States is simply too large to ignore. In recent weeks, Massachusetts has opened the doors to its very first casino, New Jersey lawmakers have debated the benefits of spreading the casino industry out of Atlantic City and, now, MGM Resorts International has its eyes set on yet another under-served market: the Atlanta metropolitan area. On Thursday, the casino giant announced preliminary plans to bring a $1 billion gambling complex to the capital of the Peach State that backers say would provide tens of millions of dollars for scholarship funds. The Las Vegas-style casino resort would create as many as 3,500 jobs in the city, as well as providing an immediate and impactful boost to the sparse gaming industry in the southern states.
As with any casino plan, MGM is receiving its fair share of pushback regarding the gambling establishment. In particular, Georgia’s legal code strictly forbids the operation of casinos, and this regulation would need to be reversed before any additional action can take place. However, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has publicly voiced support of the ban, making the road to the MGM Atlanta a potentially long and difficult proposition. Despite these regulatory roadblocks, MGM’s plans for the resort have caught the attention of some in the state’s legislative branch, being described as the ‘Cadillac of casino projects’ by the chair of the state’s economic development committee.
“I’ve seen what they want to do, and it’s going to blow your mind,” state Rep. Ron Stephens stated in a press release. “It’s massive in its size and its elegance. This is a game-changer. I’m looking for a win-win-win and this it.”
In March, Georgia took an initial step toward legalized gambling when a proposed constitutional amendment was filed that could allow local referendum to approve casinos. This bill would give local governments the option of asking voters whether or not a casino should be built, helping developers clear some of the regulatory hurdles currently in place. Additionally, any project would require approval by the state’s lottery board. Although the proposed amendment could drastically alter the gambling scene in Georgia, approval from the sitting governor is thought to be extremely unlikely. As such, those familiar with the situation expect the planned casino will need to wait until at least 2019, the date of the state’s next governor inauguration.
Although legal issues currently limit the progress of MGM’s proposal, the market potential of metro Atlanta makes the target area too tempting to pass up. Currently, Atlanta is one of the largest metro areas in the country without Vegas-style gambling, and the city’s airport is among the busiest in the world. At the moment, gambling in Georgia is limited to the state’s lottery, which is used to fund education. At one time, the lottery provided qualified students with full in-state tuition to public and technical college, but the program has recently been limited as a result of funding. For fans of this scholarship program, MGM’s planned resort could be the perfect option to reinstate one of the nation’s most successful scholarship systems.