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Casinos: Bad idea for Georgia, especially bad for Savannah

THE CITY OF SAVANNAH is known worldwide for its squares, architecture, coastal beauty, Southern charm, and most of all, its hospitality.  It’s already a number-one destination for romance, family friendly excursions, and a newly cultivated mecca for self-proclaimed "foodies."

Why would we endanger this reputation among travelers by rolling the dice on legalized gambling, as is being proposed by State Representative Ron Stephens, R-Savannah and State Senator Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta? 

Could it be the genesis of this fever-pitched support for playing the odds began with a billionaire, Tilman Fertitta, who owns the Golden Nugget casinos as well as the NBA Houston Rockets?  Did he paint a picture of unlimited revenue streams to both lawmakers which inspired them to create Senate Bill 79 and House Bill 158?  

If you consider where Savannah would place such a casino, it seems you need only look across the Savannah River to Hutchinson Island.  

This is the fertile ground where minds supposedly greater than ours envisioned a beautiful racetrack which would be the crown jewel of Indy car racing.   

Viewing a light-polluting casino with a glittery Ferris wheel next to it from River Street is so anti-Savannah, I hope every reader is sharpening a pitchfork for the public relations battle that will descend upon you in just three short weeks. 

According to The Washington Post in 2012, the National Gambling Impact Study Commission reported that having a casino within 50 miles of municipalities doubles an individual’s chance of becoming a gambling addict. That would affect all areas of Chatham County, Effingham County, Bryan County and parts of Liberty County.  

Imagine the impact on families, particularly the young military families who will be caught in the crossfire.

One area the two lawmakers are focusing on is in Columbus, GA. This would have an adverse effect on the men and women serving at Fort Benning.  

It is hard enough for our brave soldiers to endure what they do, but with the additional lure and PR that would ooze out of a casino, who knows what could happen? Studies have shown that 35-52% of casino revenues come from gambling addicts.  

Only one fifth of people facing the consequences of gambling ever seek help to cure the problem. In the wake of this eye-opening statistic are high rates of divorce, substance abuse, mental health issues, and an increasing crime rate.   

Georgia already has a problem with sex trafficking. You have seen the posters in public spaces with a hotline for those in trouble to call.  

A casino will bring more escorts, illegal trafficking of minors and the kind of crime we do not need in this city. The government officials can call it what they want, but you know better.

The additional impact would happen to our local theaters, businesses and restaurants who offer wholesome entertainment where dollars spent stay within the local economy. Casinos steal customers and a majority of the money from their wallets.

Your call to action is simple. Your letters to the editors are needed to voice your concern. 

You need to contact Governor Brian Kemp, and ask him to stop this plan.  

We need to flood social media with information that shows the statistics concerning the adverse effects of gambling. 

We need to engage every local historic group to stand against this proposal and call it what it is: Bad for Georgia, but especially bad for Savannah.

The problem with the current level of leadership at the State level is they are devoid of ideas on how to balance a budget using critical thinking. 

They instead are influenced by the lure of the lobby, which inherently knows which button to push on each individual legislator to catch their attention.  

When that happens the will of the people is thwarted, and we are left with pimped-out policies. Nothing could be worse for our future.  

If we’re going to gamble, let’s give those in power a “straight flush” out of office, and we will let Savannah be the Hospitality Center of the South just the way it is.