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Midstate DA: Focus on addiction, corruption, violence of gambling before legalizing it

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MACON, Ga. -- Georgia lawmakers are talking about allowing casinos, horse racing, and sports betting, but this potential billion-dollar operation comes with controversy.

Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke says in order for gambling to bring money instead of problems to Georgia, authorities need to reduce the issues that currently come with gambling.

"I think before we go any further on whether or not it's a good thing for a state, I think we need to get a handle on what's happening right now in our own neighborhoods," says Cooke. "What's happening right now in our own neighborhoods, is that machines are addicting our population, that leads to numerous other crimes, including violent crimes, and the corruption of law enforcement."

Cooke says allowing casinos, horse racing, and sports betting in Georgia would require a state constitutional amendment -- something he says, doesn't need to happen now.

"It's going to depend upon what the legislature does, and whether or not Georgia families want this in their community," he says.

RELATED: Macon Judicial Circuit DA announces bust of one of Georgia's 'biggest illegal gambling operations'

But Vincent Creel, Public Affairs Manager of the City of Biloxi, Mississippi, says legalized gambling was life-changing for his state.

"We've seen tremendous quality of life improvements, we've seen public safety improvements, we've seen public education improvements. It has been something that has been great for us, but it's not the only egg in the basket," says Creel.

As of November fiscal year 2020, Biloxi received over $62 million in taxed gross gaming revenues alone.

"To go from one million visitors a year to between eight to 10 million, that's a lot of people. That means you've got to look at upgrading your streets, your drainage, your police, fire, school system," says Creel.

Creel says it's important to remember that Biloxi had a booming tourism industry before, and that contributed to its gambling successes.

Just before the Georgia General Assembly reconvened for the year, lawmakers met at the Atlanta Motor Speedway -- which stands to gain if the state legalizes gambling -- to talk about adding forms of gambling other than the state lottery.

Several people took to our Facebook page sharing their thoughts on whether or not gambling should make its way to Georgia.

"Why not we have a lottery, which is gambling no different from machines," Jeanette Kendrick stated.

Claburn Warren noted, "I say keep the money in this state, not in Alabama and Mississippi and South and North Carolina." While Chris Harrison said, "Put it on the ballot and let the people decide."


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