Registered voters in Georgia: if Georgia casinos are an important issue for you, one candidate is now more outspoken on the issue than the other. On Tuesday evening, Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams made her sentiments on the subject known.
In a campaign speech, Abrams endorsed the expansion of gambling in Georgia, including making it one of the many states to host US casinos. Abrams also indicated how she would like to see the state use tax revenue from expanded gaming.
Georgia casinos become a campaign issue
According to Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Abrams sold gambling expansion in Georgia to a crowd on Tuesday night as a way to boost education funding. She insisted tax dollars from gaming would be a “permanent source of revenue to underwrite broader access to education.”
“Studies project that the potential for billions exists in economic impact, funds that will not only finance our efforts to replenish and expand the HOPE scholarship but it will also provide new economic opportunities for Georgia that can grow jobs and make our economy stronger for everyone,” Abrams commented.
Currently, the Georgia Lottery provides funding for the HOPE Scholarship program in the state. However, criticisms of the program have included it excluding ethnic minorities in the state. A 2020 Insider Higher Ed study showed “Black students made up only six percent of recipients” in the program “despite making up 10 percent of the total undergraduate student population.”
While Abrams’ comments put her firmly in the pro-gambling expansion camp, her opponent isn’t exactly in the opposite camp. Additionally, the role of either candidate in that process is questionable right now.
What impact could Abrams have on casinos in Georgia?
Georgia’s current governor, Brian Kemp, is personally opposed to gambling expansion in the state. However, he has stated he supports letting the state’s voters decide the issue themselves. That’s exactly what could happen during the next term, which Kemp is running for re-election toward.
Earlier this year, Georgia’s legislature came close to authorizing a potential constitutional amendment. It would have put to voters this fall a question of whether to give the legislature the authority to decide what forms of gambling are legal in the state. Currently, the Georgia Constitution reserves that power for the people at large.
If a similar proposal surfaces in the next legislative term, whether Abrams or Kemp is in office might not matter much. The governor technically has no role in amending the state’s constitution. That doesn’t mean the position carries no weight in the process, however.
Abrams could use her influence as governor to try to sway more legislators to support such an amendment. Kemp might not be as inclined to do so. If the proposal does become part of the state’s constitution, the governor will become a major player again.
From there, gambling proponents would need the governor’s support for any subsequent legislation. At the moment, they seem likely to get that from Abrams, perhaps on the condition that tax revenue would fund education. As a member of the Georgia legislature in the past, she listed that as a condition of her support for similar initiatives.
That doesn’t mean Kemp would resist such measures, however. Right now, Abrams has simply been more vociferous on the issue. If Kemp wins re-election, that might just be a footnote in the story of her campaign.