It’s no secret that gambling is beginning to make its entry into the United States.
In 2019 alone, several states of the federation legalized gambling on various fronts, and some of them reaped immediate rewards.
Spurred by the success of the gambling space in several other states, the state of Georgia is beginning to make overtures to the industry. Last week, the state had a public hearing to discuss the possibilities of allowing land-based casinos in the state.
Christian Beliefs are a Major Barrier
This is just the first in a long list of steps that will need to be passed before gambling can be allowed in the state. Per the report, to change the status of gambling in the state requires an amendment to the state constitution, a process that requires a referendum.
Rep. David Ralston, the Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives explained
“Do we trust Georgians enough to let them make the decision? We’ve talked about this issue here for years. One of these days, we’re either going to have to say we’re going to quit talking, or we’re going to vote for it. Whichever way it comes out, it comes out.”
This isn’t the first time Georgia has toyed with the prospect of legalizing gambling. Last year, lawmakers in the state held a rousing debate over the potential benefits and risks of allowing gambling, with the usual theme taking center stage.
At the time, gambling proponents believe that the state needed an injection of revenues, especially to fund its HOPE (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) Scholarship program. They also saw gambling as a necessity that could create jobs and bolster the economy on many fronts.
On the flip side, Georgia is a highly religious, conservative state. The sentiment against gambling in states like Georgia is perfectly encapsulated in this statement from Rep. Wes Cantwell:
“While there would likely be some revenue increases due to gambling, this revenue would be more than offset by the increased costs to our state due to gambling addiction, sex trafficking, loss of jobs, less spending by those who gamble, small businesses closing, increased crime, and bankruptcies.”
Georgia isn’t different from most states that have chosen to stay away from the gambling sector so far. They all sing the same tune. They acknowledge the economic benefits and the vices that make them develop cold feet.
Gambling Could Fare Well in Georgia
With that said, it’s worth examining the state’s economy and whether it could stand to gain from letting gambling in. Religious sentiments have prevented gambling from entering Georgia.
As State Laws explains, the state has stringent regulations in place, and casinos of every kind- even horse racing or dog races- are prohibited. Still, the Peach State has a rather fledgling gambling industry, even if it’s one it didn’t legalize.
Sports franchise owners have called on the government to regulate the industry so as to create a more transparent ecosystem. Illegal gambling in the United States is a $150 billion industry, and Georgia is the 12th-largest contributor to this shadowy sector.
So, while the government might want to point out religious beliefs, it seems rather obvious that Georgians are gambling, despite the possible jail term for offenders.
Does Georgia Need the Income?
The state has a fiscal reason to let gambling in. As Statista records, Georgia had about $57.06 billion in outstanding debt in 2018, a number that is expected to grow to $59.12 billion in 2020 and $67.22 billion by 2023. In terms of U.S. states, Georgia ranks 29th by GDP per capita.
The financial benefit of gambling is one of the reasons why it’s being proposed across board. Beyond serving as additional funding for government programs, it could help inject cash to improve other aspects of the state’s economy.
A Central Position Could Guarantee Success
Georgia could also take advantage of its positioning, since most of the states around its border also have restrictive laws. Tennessee and North Carolina both border the state to the north. South Carolina, which borders it to the southeast, is the most restrictive of the states where gambling is concerned.
If Georgia legalizes gambling, it will have an abundance of players, which would make it an overnight success. While it’s understandable that many in the state would like to stick to the tenets of Christianity, from an economic standpoint, gambling is a must-have for the state. Right now, it’s just a matter of whether they need for revenues could overcome that religious background.