Gwinnett location ideal for gaming venue, developer says

NORCROSS -- After years of working to bring a gambling venture to Underground Atlanta, Dan O'Leary turned his sights north along Interstate 85.

Instead of finding another downtown location, it was an under-utilized plant in the suburbs that struck his fancy as the first gambling mecca in Georgia, a proposal that O'Leary launched publicly Tuesday in hopes of making inroads with state lottery officials, who must approve the project.

Why the Gwinnett location? Was it the revitalization tools officials spent years putting together to market the Jimmy Carter Boulevard facility, which houses a small fiber-optic manufacturing operation?

No, O'Leary said. Those may help, but it was really the visibility from the interstate that made the location ideal for the entertainment venue he envisions.

"On paper, it works quite well," he said of the 165 acres that will allow the OFS operations to continue while adding a hotel, parking garage, theater and gaming room -- a total of a $1 billion investment.

Just a 15- to 20-minute ride from Atlanta, a few miles from Interstate 285, the location is ideal. Plus, a proposed light-rail connection that would come straight to the property gives tremendous access, he said.

The buildings, which once house Lucent operations, could be converted, instead of constructing from scratch. O'Leary said that aspect cuts the construction time in half, allowing the developer to have the venue operational in 18 months. Well, 18 months after the venture makes its way through a slew of needed approvals.

"On that site, we can generate $500 million in revenue over a green-field site," he said of the expected $350 million in lottery revenues which could be generated for the HOPE scholarship each year.

"It's a very unique situation," he said, adding that project could benefit from the tax allocation district and opportunity zone tax credits, which Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District officials added to entice developers to the property in the past several years. "But that isn't why we landed here."

Chuck Warbington, the Gwinnett Village director who worked to add the incentives, said they would benefit, especially in terms of financing transportation improvements to the area.

"In this case, their No. 1 issue was having the building," he said. "That is a different project because of how massive it is. I do think opportunity zone and TADs will be a part of their project."


donnagaga 2 years, 10 months ago

I think that it is a wonderful idea to put a casino in the vacant building. We have way too many empty buildings. This would create many jobs and increase spending at our restaurants and hotels. I love to go to casinos to play the slot machines, the probem is, I have to go out of state to spend my money. That is a shame. To all of the Nay Sayers, you can just stay out of them. I hope that the people of Gwinnett County, Norcross and the State of Georgia will allow this to happen. Should have happened years ago.

Donna Foster


LilburnLady 2 years, 9 months ago

"increase spending at our restaurants and hotels" Not likely. One of the basic tenets of constructing a casino is to keep people inside once they arrive. Casinos entice people to stay by providing food, alcohol, lodging and other amenities to keep people near the gaming machines. Of course, there will probably be an increase in pawn shops and tatoo parlors surrounding the casino, but I guess that will be okay too. More jobs right?


Karl 2 years, 9 months ago

ummm, wouldn't that still be "...creat[ing] many jobs and increas[ing] spending at our restaurants and hotels"?

The restaurants and hotels are not in NC or MS.

I understand you don't like gambling. Here's a novel idea, DON'T GO!


donnagaga 2 years, 9 months ago

I agree. I hate when a few people have control of where I go and what I do. Your novel idea is great........


LilburnLady 2 years, 9 months ago

Karl, I probably won't go, not because I'm against gambling, but it just doesn't interest me to go sit on a stool and pull a slot machine arm over and over again while feeding my hard-earned cash into it.

My issue with a casino is not what goes on inside, it's the effect on the surrounding community. Jobs created by a casino are not likely to be high-paying jobs and will likely be a trade-off as restaurants in the area must now compete with a low-cost buffet at the casino and some will not survive. In addition to an increase in crime, casinos are also magnets for homeless populations. Las Vegas and Atlantic City have had to create State Agencies funded by taxpayer dollars to try to reduce the homeless population around their casinos. Atlantic City even has a program to buy bus tickets for people who come to the casinos, lose all their money and get "stranded" and become homeless. One casino will likely not have that big of an impact, but once there's one, more will come and like the casinos in Delaware that started as video lottery terminals only, they will eventually legalize and add table games. I hate to see Gwinnett go down this road. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Just like the Hot Lanes, it all sounds great when it's a "concept", but not so much when it becomes reality.


JohnPDunn 2 years, 9 months ago

A casino? In Gwinnett? Really?


BuzzG 2 years, 9 months ago

"Plus, a proposed light-rail connection that would come straight to the property gives tremendous access, he said." Yes, and how will it be paid for? I'll bet you a dollar to a hole in a donut that he wants the taxpayers to pay for it. I'll also be that taxpayers will not only be on the hook for the light-rail, but many other amenities these guys are looking for. They will squeeze government (us) for all the money they can.


LilburnLady 2 years, 9 months ago

This is what just kills me. We desperately need commuter rail in Gwinnett County but our politicians refuse to even discuss it. However, building light rail to make sure there is access from Dekalb and Fulton Counties to a casino in Gwinnett will make all the sense in the world.


Mack711 2 years, 9 months ago

Casinos in Atlantic City contract buses to bring in partons from all over.Penn. NY , NJ and other states. There are also buses that go to dog tracks and the MS. coast. That can be done here with out light rail being built. We, the taxpayer, should not have to pay for anything associated with this project, just collect the tax revenue.


vanekjohn 2 years, 9 months ago

I hope that all the past negative talk in Ga. about legalizing gambling will come to an end. This would be a GREAT start towards achieving that goal. It would be excellent the revenues from gambling would go towards Hope, but I do not feel the government should be in charge of this as I feel it would end up in other funds. As far as rail service, I do not believe that there would be enough riders to justify the initial expense and continued maintenence. Please do not make this an additional expense on the taxpayers of Gwinnett, but the developers expense including private investment.


kevin 2 years, 9 months ago

this is all being talked about to sell everyone on this so-called great idea. It is NOT. Casino ativity will surely add more crime to Gwinnett. This county has seen a rapid increase in serious crimes and murder, everyday. Just sign on to the "crime reports" website and you will be getting messages every day near your neighborhood. Theowing in money for HOPE is just a laughable joke to sell the idea altogether. This guy sees money wiht little investment since those building can be easily converted to a casino. This is what is driving this man. If you want all that so-called "gravy" money, then build all of this in another county besides Gwinnett. We have more than enough crime here. As the folks sart to move from Atlanta northward, so goes the crime. That stats prove it. Check out crime in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to see what I am talking about. BEsides, "when" this casino idea starts to fail, Gwinnett is again left with vacant buildings. Want something differenct? Try building a real race track. That is 100% more attractive than a casino. Check out New Orleans for that. Gwinnett might even allow it to have slots, like they do in New Orleans.


LookingDeeply 2 years, 9 months ago

Hopefully, the community and our county commissioners will do a better job with this project than with Coolray Stadium. The taxpayers are still on the financial hook for that white elephant project (http://tinyurl.com/Struggle-fill-Coolray). The developers and team walked away with the financial benefits and we got the bill. The commissioner's were not even savvy enough to maintain the naming rights, which could have garnered a large fee. That would have helped to offset our $19 million dollar dip into the county's reserve fund that the taxpayers could not afford (http://tinyurl.com/Gwinnett-Stadium-Eats-Money).

This time around due-diligence should include input and advice from someone other than the developers designing the project and making the money.


freegeorgian 2 years, 9 months ago

Local leaders wanting to bring in gambling is usually evidence of being out of ideas. Anyone thinking Gwinnett would be "winning" with this one, must be looking to Charlie Sheen for guidance.


psychientology 2 years, 9 months ago

This would be great for Gwinnett County. Gwinnett is a fantastic place to live or do business. It's safer than most, friendly, and the people are way above average in income, and brains. This would be a logical move upwards.


dav 2 years, 9 months ago

The thugs,seeing how they are already there


twocents1 2 years, 9 months ago

I love the idea of FINALLY having a casino in the metro area. I also like the idea of having it in Gwinnett County. However, I think the proposed site is a mistake. Although it is convenient to 85 and 285 the area has a high rate of crime and gangs. The venue will entice travelers to visit our city but will the location deter them from ever returning? I think a more suitable location would be near the Gwinnett Arena and Conference Center. There are established businesses including Discover Mills Mall which also hosts Medieval Times and newer more appealing hotels around the surrounding area. This location would entice traffic from adult individuals, families and business travelers.


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