Columbus City Council approves push to seek vote on gambling, casinos in GA

Columbus City Council approves push to seek vote on gambling, casinos in GA

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Could a casino make its way to Columbus in the future? City lawmakers tested the waters at Tuesday night's meeting to see how voters feel about the proposal.  

After a 90-minute discussion, with back and forth between elected officials and members of the public, the city council supported this push to put gambling in Muscogee County and Georgia on the ballot. 

Some community leaders in Columbus say they want to build a casino in South Columbus as a potential economic boost that could grow the economy and bring new jobs to an underdeveloped area. 

Among those public speakers at Tuesday evening's council meeting were entrepreneur Robert Wright, his niece local attorney Katonga Wright, along with attorneys Stacey Jackson and Teddy Reese, as well as Reverend Dr. Ralph Huling of St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus.
Councilors were swayed by a series of statements made by this group of leaders in the black community. The speakers' goal is to at least put the decision to allow gambling in Columbus on the ballots and let people vote. 

"South Columbus needs to be a part of Columbus, and economically right now, it's not," Robert said. "And if we can bring 500 to 1,000 jobs to south Columbus, to support that economy, that's what I'm for."

Council members eventually agreed to amend the original language in the city manager's agenda to advocate a local referendum in Muscogee County.

Those in favor of the vote were clear in saying they also want the potential casinos to fund the Hope Scholarship for students in Georgia.

Wright says construction on a possible casino could cost $200 million. However, Wright said there's no timetable yet; the Georgia State Assembly would have to amend the constitution in order to allow gambling. 

The city council will now add this approval to their wish list when they ask state representatives and senators to bring forth legislation to the Georgia General Assembly in 2017. 

This support was met with some resistance from other members of the public, particularly those in the arts community.

RiverCenter executive director Norman Easterbrook spoke to the council, expressing his concern that a casino may poach entertainment opportunities
for other venues. 

Wright said he plans to sit down with the art community in Columbus to address those concerns. 

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