ATLANTA — A developer has lost control of a Norcross property where he hoped to build Georgia's first gambling complex, even as the debate over expanded gambling continues.
Developer Dan O'Leary said that he had extended the land contract on a parcel near Interstate 85 seven times before.
"We've extended the (land) contract seven times now, and at some point you've got to say, 'It looks like there's not going to be any action in the near-term, so let's give it a break for a while,'" O'Leary said.
O'Leary earlier proposed a $1 billion gambling center that would have hosted video lottery terminals. He described the development as a way to increase revenue for lottery funded scholarships and boost the economy. While the Georgia Lottery Board has the authority to approve video lottery terminals, board chairman James Braswell previously said he would not consider the project without the support of public officials.
"When you look at all the good this could bring and the mindset of voters, it seems like a no-brainer," O'Leary said. "And for that reason we will not give up."
In July, voters in the Republican primary approved a nonbinding question asking whether they would support an expansion of gambling if the funds were earmarked for the education system. State Sen. Jack Murphy, a Republican, has proposed a referendum to legalize horse racing.
Still, O'Leary's plan appears stuck. He said he cannot get a meeting with the state's new lottery chief, Debbie Dlugolenski Alford, a former Deal budget official.
"Unfortunately the lottery board seems to be stuck right now on this issue and I don't know where it goes from here," said state Rep. Ron Stephens, the chair of the House's Economic and Development Committee. He supports O'Leary's proposal. "The timing might not be right for now."
Even if O'Leary's plan cannot move forward, opponents of expanded gambling do not believe the question is settled.
"Gambling's coming. It's just a matter of when," said Jerry Luquire, the head of the Georgia Christian Coalition. "It's difficult for politicians to oppose the will of the people. But every year we delay it makes it a better year."