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Small margin of victory equals big win on gambling question, developer says

ELECTION CENTRAL

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NORCROSS -- Out of nearly a million votes, just 5,000 more people said yes to a casino gambling question on statewide Republican ballots Tuesday.

But for Dan O'Leary, the developer interested in expanding the Georgia Lottery to create a gaming floor in Norcross, the win was monstrous.

"We thought we'd be lucky if we got 40 percent, so we're elated," said O'Leary, who has been critical of the phrasing of the question, which acts as a non-binding poll of the GOP.

While the wording was not specific to his cause, O'Leary hopes to convince lottery board officials to allow for video lottery terminals, which appear similar to slot machines but act more like an extension to the scratch-off ticket.

Settling on an underused manufacturing facility off Interstate 85 at Jimmy Carter Boulevard, O'Leary believes a proposed $1 billion high-class development -- complete with a gaming floor with 7,500 video lottery terminals -- will boost jobs and bring in at least $350 million annually in revenue to the cash-strapped, Lottery-funded HOPE Scholarship.

He was pessimistic about his chances on the GOP question, which asked the most conservative voters in the state about casino gambling funding education but neglecting to mention video lottery terminals.

"We're certain that if a question about a specific project ... if that were to go statewide it would win by a bigger margin," O'Leary said, adding that the surprising win should speak to Georgia Lottery Board members, who have not yet acted on his proposal.

"The vote speaks for itself," he said. "Those would be some pretty hard facts to ignore."

Bleary from a late night watching returns in the close contest, O'Leary said Wednesday the outcome gives him hope.

"For the first time in eight years, I feel like I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said.