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Georgia lawmakers roll the dice on casino legislation

ATLANTA, Ga. -- Some lawmakers in Georgia are working hard to bring the casino industry to the state.

But others are concerned that the language in the bill doesn't clearly convey the intent to bring in casinos.

The plan to legalize gambling in Georgia continues to be tinkered with by state lawmakers. Senate Bill 79 would allow two casinos to set up shop in the state.

The most current version of the bill requires one casino to be in a county with a population greater than 900,000 and the other to be in a county with at least 250,000 people.

The bill is titled the "Destination Resorts Act" and the language of the constitutional amendment is still being worked out.

State Rep. James Beverly (D-Macon) said leaving the words "gambling" and "casinos" out of the bill is likely an effort to soften attitudes.

"Part of it, when they start burying language and not making it explicit in the public, there's always a reason, is there some smoke there?" Beverly said. "And I think part of it is that casinos have a bad name in certain spaces. But destination resorts, what is that?"

Beverly said he is also concerned about the opportunities casinos will bring to Middle Georgia. With the current population requirements, Bibb County will be left out of the casino game.

He said he wants to make sure Middle Georgia gets some kind of financial benefit from casino gambling before he can approve the plans.

The bill mandates that casinos will be taxed at 20 percent.

That tax money will be split into two pots--70 percent for HOPE Scholarships and 30 percent for other needs-based scholarships.

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