Key takeaways

Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District conducted an independent study to provide relevant fact-based data about the potential impacts of proposed casino gaming in Georgia (January 2017).

The following are key takeaways from the study, which can be found here: 

economic development

In the short run, casino gaming could generate positive economic impacts, but the boom isn’t likely to last. In four of the case study cities, the downtown casino’s performance was flat to modest, with revenues in two cities declining significantly over the analysis period. Casinos have promised to bring new jobs and increase tourism, redevelopment, and additional investment, but the ability for casinos to deliver on these benefits over the long-term has shown mixed results. 

Revenue is from Locals

A majority of a casino’s visitors (and revenue) comes from local residents in their immediate area and regional market, not out-of-market tourists. For cities like Atlanta with existing tourism appeal, a casino might augment – but is not likely to increase – tourism.  

The Substitution Effect

It is unclear how much of the estimated casino revenue would be “new” money or a diversion of other non-casino discretionary spending (from local shops, theaters, and restaurants). The greatest likely effect is on leisure and entertainment spending, therefore Atlanta and other cities in Georgia should carefully consider the potential impact of a casino entertainment and retail component on surrounding businesses.   

Local Community Costs

Communities that are home to these casino resorts will bear disproportionate social, economic, and municipal costs. Earlier versions of legislation in Georgia allocates just 1-3% of total state revenue to the local community, which is significantly lower than states such as Pennsylvania (7-14%), New York (10%), and Massachusetts (6.5%).

Social Impacts

 Lawmakers must consider and plan for social impacts, including gambling addiction, crime, bankruptcy, and other quality of life issues like homelessness, disorderly conduct, and human trafficking. The extent of these impacts is dependent on several factors, including size and location of a casino and mitigation efforts in place. Therefore, funding for related mitigation efforts should be flexible and responsive to address problems created or exacerbated by casinos.

Local Community Input

Local communities must have a seat at the table to negotiate specific objectives before allowing casino development. Without it, they are unlikely to see a positive impact from gaming. Because these resort-style casinos are essentially self-contained, they have not been a major catalyst to other development. Other states have emphasized that the proposed development should leverage – not recreate – the surrounding hospitality and leisure assets. While casinos can be effective for driving initial investment, specific objectives should be negotiated at the local level.