Could legalized gambling help solve Georgia's mounting budget problems, or would it open the door to more crime and worse poverty? There are strong feelings on both sides. But the time has come to have an honest debate.
Imagine how a riverfront casino might transform downtown Albany. Supporters hail the jobs a casino would create, the visitors it would attract, and the tax revenue it would bring in. Critics say gambling is a dangerous vice and expanding gambling in Georgia beyond the lottery would bring new problems that would outweigh any benefits.
The fact is we're all upset by high taxes and diminishing services. Our schools and colleges aren't getting the money they need to educate our kids as effectively as they should be. It's hard to keep enough police on the streets. We don't have the money to complete needed transportation projects.
Something needs to be done to boost tax revenue and create new jobs without burdening us with more taxes. There aren't many quick fixes, but legalized gambling just might be one. Like it or not, if Georgia doesn't take the step, neighboring states will and we'll fall further behind. Before we dismiss casinos or parimutuel betting as unnecessary, we need to take a long hard look them.
There's a bill now in the General Assembly that would let the voters decide whether to bring horse racing to Georgia. It's a good place to start the debate, and it's a debate we hope our state leaders aren't afraid to have.