The state of Georgia will move one step closer to legalizing gambling this week after legislators introduce two bills that will allow the state to issue up to two gambling licenses, sources told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The bills call for the formation of a gambling commission modeled after the regulatory body in Nevada that will issue two licenses -- one for Atlanta and one for either Savannah, Augusta or Columbus.
The bills represent a compromise between the legislations' backers and opponents, with gaming revenues set to be taxed at a 20% rate, well above the industry preferred rate of about 12%, but short of Gov. Nathan Deal's preferred rate of 24%.
The Atlanta license will require a $2 billion investment from interested parties, while the other license will require a $450 million investment.
Up to 70% of the proceeds from gaming tax revenues will go to the state's merit-based state-funded college scholarship program, with the other 30% going towards a new needs-based scholarship, State Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) told the AJC.
The trouble for investors in the gambling industry is that Georgia is surrounded by states that already have regional casinos, including Florida, North Carolina and Alabama, as well as other nearby states including Louisiana and Mississippi, raising the possibility that there won't be enough gamblers to go around.
Nationally, gambling revenue in the 23 states that allow casino gambling -- not counting states with only Native American casino gambling -- through November was $37.1 billion, up 0.9% through the first 11 months of the year, according to the UNLV Center for Gaming.
"Cannibalization is a concern in regional gaming," Union Gaming analyst John DeCree told TheStreet in a recent interview. "Regionally, the market is stable, but it is not high growth."
Though casino gambling revenue is on track to rise for the sixth consecutive year, not every state saw growth in 2016. The steepest decliners were New Mexico, down 9.85%, Louisiana, off 5.11% and West Virginia, down 3.75%. Overall nine states experienced revenue declines through November of 2016.
Eastern states such as Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia have been affected by neighbors Pennsylvania and Maryland, which have only recently legalized casino gambling. Revenue in both Delaware and New Jersey fell less than 1% last year.