Some Columbus City Council members support gambling legislation

Updated: Oct. 24, 2017 at 11:39 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Gaming is an issue that's been brought before Columbus City Council in the past months.

At Tuesday's meeting, a majority of the council voiced its support in asking local state representatives to push for legal gambling in the Peach State.

Businessman Bob Wright and others have pushed for legislation that may allow Columbus to attract a future casino in South Columbus. Wright also urged councilors to push for a referendum that would allow voters to make this decision for themselves. 

"A state referendum," Wright said, "that would allow our citizens in Georgia to vote as to whether or not they would like gaming in the state of Georgia."

Wright's proposed idea, as well as past gaming legislation, has swayed some councilors, including Walker Garrett and Berry "Skip" Henderson, to believe this could have a significant economic impact in the area.

"If this is passed, and I think it probably will be on the state level," Garrett said, "and we're one of the communities that didn't even support a right to vote, I don't think we're going to be left with a seat at the table."

"I think that this initiative is underway," Henderson said. "I think, in order to even have an opportunity for us to evaluate whether or not it's a good thing or a bad thing for Columbus, Georgia, we have to at least be in the game from the beginning."

Councilor Judy Thomas, who opposed including this item on the agenda, referred back to the latest attempt at legalizing gambling, House Bill 158, saying Columbus would not have qualified for a casino simply because of its population size.

"If that bill were to pass," Thomas said, " the only places that we could have casinos in Georgia would be in the Atlanta area, and in Savannah."

Despite Thomas' take, Columbus City Council voted to add this push on their 2018 legislative agenda, which local state lawmakers will push for in the next session.

News Leader 9 spoke to Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson before the start of Tuesday's meeting. 

Tomlinson said she's aware there are those who believe a casino would create around 1,000 jobs in Columbus, while others say it may negatively impact the local arts and cultural scene.

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