A high-powered Republican joins the army of casino lobbyists in Georgia

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

A powerful new ally of the casino industry huddled with Gov. Nathan Deal days before the start of the legislative session, part of a wave of pressure on Georgia’s politicians this year to allow a referendum that could legalize gambling.

Haley Barbour is a former Mississippi governor and ex-chair of the Republican National Committee with a long friendship with Deal. He is also a newly-registered Georgia lobbyist, after filling out paperwork in November – the day before the election – to represent a doctors’ group and for Wynn Resorts, a Nevada-based casino company.

Deal aides won’t say what the two Republicans spoke about during the 30-minute long meeting in the governor’s office on Jan. 5. But his top deputy, Chris Riley, said the two have a “longstanding relationship” that goes back to Deal’s days in the U.S. House.

 


 

The governor took a hard line against last year’s gambling proposal, saying he wouldn’t support legislation unless casino firms agreed to put at least 24 percent of their gross revenue into education. But his stance has softened somewhat this year.

He said in January that he won’t oppose legislation that would legalize gambling as long as it doesn’t “devastate” the state’s lottery-funded HOPE scholarship program. But he wouldn’t say whether this year’s version – which would tax gambling “resorts” at 20 percent – went far enough.

Barbour is among a half-dozen lobbyists boosting Wynn, a group that also includes former state Rep. Ed Lindsey. They are but a small fraction of the larger legion of pro-gambling lobbyists in the halls of the statehouse.

In all, about 40 lobbyists working for gambling firms are registered under the Gold Dome this year. Nearly two dozen work for MGM Resorts International – which has already pitched a $2 billion casino for downtown Atlanta.

The rest work for Las Vegas Sands, Penn National Gaming, Elite Casino Resorts, Boyd Gaming Corp. and a handful of other gambling firms.

Barbour also isn’t the only high-powered advocate pushing the casino industry in person. Sheldon Adelson, the Republican mega-donor who runs Sands, also quietly met with Deal in 2015 to push a $2 billion resort his one-time deputy pledged would be an “architectural wonder.”

Reader Comments 0

26 comments
Bill Morrow
Bill Morrow

no thanks to casino's.. a state lottery is more than enough..

Jeff Gibbs
Jeff Gibbs

Due to the corruption in this state , no way .

Jim Cornett Sr.
Jim Cornett Sr.

All they are doing is keeping that gambling money in Georgia

Cecelia Landress
Cecelia Landress

Go on vacation if you want to go to the casinos.... We have enough traffic, crime, and problems without them. And no we don't need them at Lake Lanier or Chateau Elan either.

Wilson Allen
Wilson Allen

Since we don't have enough folks dumping their checks to make that BIG win in the Lottery, let's open casinos to further their chances of winning....said no one ever.

Tim Pope
Tim Pope

They all stand up, then sit down in a wavy sequence.

Michael Sean Robinson
Michael Sean Robinson

Let's make this push count this year we have a great opportunity to put a large amount of money into our coffers also offer a major entertainment upgrade. This is a positive for the state a positive for the people plus the jobs that are produced are great for the economy. Most that don't approve are religious zealots who only want that same gaming money funneled into their church for prayer.

Andy Young
Andy Young

Nonsense. Does the mafia believe in free markets? I rest my case.

Michael Sean Robinson
Michael Sean Robinson

The mafia is a has been organization that is the dumbest case against gambling ive heard

Larry Clark
Larry Clark

Loads of crap. Seems you may have a vested interest in this venture

James Elwood Dew Sr.
James Elwood Dew Sr.

When they built on indian land in mississippi there was a lot of people lost their farms killed their self lost their families because they bet againest the games

Georgia Blue
Georgia Blue

They might as well get a couple dollars for what's left of their dark, withered little souls while they can. There's not much left of them, anyway, and soon it will be too late.

David Harris
David Harris

Cause poor people need a place where they can get rich quick. ...