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 legislation, as currently proposed, does not consider many of the report’s key findings and recommendations. Following are key takeaways from the study, and the full study can be found here: http://www.atlantadowntown.com/_files/docs/orgia---cap_adid-final-report-1-2017---reduced.pdf.
Costs – social, economic, and municipal – will be incurred by the local community. The best practices to mitigate them are regulation and legislation. The proposed legislation allocates between 1-3% of total state revenue to local host communities in Georgia, which is significantly lower than states such as Pennsylvania (7-14%), New York (10%), and Massachusetts (6.5%). The proposed legislation allocates $250,000 in the mitigation of “social costs” and is restricted only to problem gambling. As problem gambling affects around 1% of the population, that would be $2.43 for each of the approximately 103,000 Georgians that could need help. While research results on crime vary, it is estimated that in Atlanta crimes would be likely to increase by about 8% if a casino was built in the city.
There are several types of social impacts that need to be considered and planned for, including problem gambling, crime, bankruptcy, political corruption, and other quality of life issues. The extent of these impacts can vary due to several factors, including size and location of a casino, as well as mitigation efforts in place in the surrounding areas. Quality of life issues, such as homelessness, disorderly conduct, and human trafficking, are largely understudied in current published research. Therefore, funding for related mitigation efforts should be flexible and responsive to the impacts identified in the ongoing research to ease any problems created or exacerbated by the casinos.
Without negotiating specific objectives, communities are unlikely to see a positive impact from gaming. In the four case cities studied, the casinos created additional jobs in the hospitality sector, but did not increase employment in any other industry. Case study cities reported a modest impact on hotel room demand, but since most casino visitors come from a 2-hour radius, it is unclear how many additional room nights would be generated. As well, the casino resorts will most likely have a hotel component, so local hotels would see little increase in demand. Due to their nature as self-contained venues, casinos have not been a major catalyst to other development, therefore the proposed development should leverage, not recreate, the surrounding hospitality and leisure assets. While casinos can be effective for driving initial investment, specific objectives need to be explicitly identified and made a part of the negotiation at the local community level.