Even after severing the contract for land in Norcross that would have housed the state's first video gambling site, Dan O'Leary is still betting that the concept is coming to Georgia.
O'Leary, a developer, has spent the better part of two years campaigning for a $1 billion gambling center off Interstate 85 near Jimmy Carter Boulevard. The site would contain -- alongside restaurants, shops, a hotel and other entertainment venues -- about 7,500 "video lottery terminals" operated by the Georgia Lottery and aimed at helping fund the floundering HOPE Scholarship.
After a year and a half, the land on the site of fiber optics manufacturer OFS is no longer under contract by O'Leary, he confirmed Monday. He opted not to extend the contract for an eighth time.
"It just didn't make business sense to keep this under contract," he told the Daily Post.
The decision, though, should not be considered a white flag.
O'Leary said he's still confident that the video lottery idea -- which needs to be approved by the Georgia Lottery board -- will be coming to Georgia sooner than later. 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.
"I strongly believe that this type of gaming is going to happen," O'Leary said, "and in the somewhat near future."
The Georgia Lottery board recently got a new chair in Debbie Dlugolenski Alford. Then-chairman Jimmy Braswell said in April that he would need the governor's support to approve such a program.
O'Leary said he hasn't attempted to set up a meeting with Alford yet because he's trying to "let her get acclimated" to her new position.
"We're extremely hopeful that she understands the dire circumstances that the HOPE Scholarship is in, and that this is a way to maximize revenue and literally solve the HOPE Scholarship problem," O'Leary said.
The developer said Monday he's hopeful that, if and when a video gambling measure is approved, the OFS site in Norcross will still work. If not, though, he said he and his team have checked out other sites across metro Atlanta.