Casinos are coming back! MGM tested the appetite for destination gaming (Casinos) in Georgia when explored options in 2015 employing teams of well-healed lobbyists. The direct benefactor of the tax haul collected from casinos were to be injected into the HOPE Scholarship.
HOPE originally started through legislation in 1992 and strengthened through the Zell MIller Scholarship, whereby a portion of lottery ticket sales would make college affordable to Georgia residents. As population increases and players taper off should nothing change,forecasts project the HOPE scholarship could be insolvent by 2028.
Economic realities of HOPE weren’t taken into consideration by Georgia’s Board of Regents who, on April 16, 2019 agreed unanimously to raise Tuition by 2.5% for the 2019-20 school year. The increases range between $35 and $125 per semester for full-time students.
This time around the gaming industry has identified different benefactor, Georgia’s healthcare crisis and MGM isn’t the only gaming company looking at Georgia. Quietly lobbyists are being enlisted to begin engaging with legislators.
However, the landscape has shifted. The benefactor this time with not be the poorly managed HOPE Scholarship. The tax revenue raised will be directed to address Healthcare in Georgia. The specifics rural/urban, mental health will be determined will unfold during the next legislative session.
Opposition in 2015 was from faith based organizations and some in the mental health community citing concerns about 1 ½% who are identified as addicts of gambling. As legislative and community conversations take place, it should prove interesting to see how the mental health community responds to the shift of tax revenue being channeled to Healthcare instead of education.