(Ledger-Enquirer) - The original legislation would have only allowed two casino resorts in the state. Population triggers were used in the bill, which would put one in the metro Atlanta area, either in Fulton, Gwinnett or DeKalb counties. The second casino would be limited to the Savannah and the Georgia coast.
Rep. Calvin Smyre, a co-sponsor of a similar bill in the House, and Sen. Ed Harbison, a co-sponsor of the Senate bill considered by the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee, have fought to have Columbus and other second-tier cities considered should the legislation pass and the matter is put in front of Georgia voters.
Their efforts seem to pay off as Beach presented a substitute bill to the committee. That bill lowered the county population triggers from 250,000 residents to 180,000 people. Muscogee County and Richmond County, where Augusta is located, both have populations of about 200,000 people.
“My thought is it has to be broad enough that were the legislation to pass, Columbus would not be excluded,” Smyre said Thursday afternoon. “It looks like Columbus and Augusta are back in play.”
Harbison and Smyre both had discussions with Beach prior to the bill being presented in committee.
“I expect there will be more tweaking to this bill,” Harbison said. “But this is a pretty good start to the tweaking. ... This is more palatable to us. It now puts us in the mix. If this is going to happen, Columbus needs to have choice.”
Beach told the committee there was a reason for limiting the number of casinos and requiring them to be high-end resorts, as well.
“I don’t think we want slot machines and casinos in every corner of the state,” he said.