The current OFS property as shown from above where Dan O'Leary proposed to build a mixed-used entertainment complex.
LAWRENCEVILLE — A developer hoping to build a $1 billion gambling complex in Norcross said he expects a ballot question that could help his cause will fail in July.
In primaries, political parties often add questions to their ballots, although the results are not binding.
The topics on the July 31 ballots statewide range from lobbyist gifts to taxes, with a nod to Dan O’Leary’s proposal to allow video lottery terminals to boost the state’s lottery funds.
But O’Leary said the question on the GOP ballot is flawed. It reads: “Should Georgia have casino gambling with funds going to education?” The Democratic ballot does not contain the question.
“To truly gauge public sentiment on the issue of gaming, the real question is: Are voters in favor of the Georgia Lottery expanding with (video lottery terminals) games in a single controlled environment to save the HOPE scholarship? This question gets to the heart of the issue. It’s not about casinos; it’s about saving HOPE,” O’Leary said in a statement, referring to the HOPE Scholarship, where lottery funds are used to fund college scholarships and Pre-K programs.
While video lottery terminals look like video slot machines, O’Leary said they are more similar to scratch-off lottery tickets and funds would go solely to the Georgia Lottery.
“Our proposal to build a mixed-used entertainment complex in Gwinnett County will bring new revenue to fully fund the HOPE scholarship and pre-kindergarten programs for many generations to come,” he said, arguing that the complex could add $350 million to the cash-strapped scholarship program each year. “This can be accomplished through a simple expansion of the existing gaming options operated by the Georgia Lottery by placing Video Lottery Terminals in a secure destination venue.”
O’Leary said he did not lobby for the question to be on ballots.
“Given that this ballot question does not accurately portray our project, we fully anticipate that the voters will vote against it,” O’Leary said.
While the deal is dependent on the Georgia Lottery Commission’s approval of the use of video lottery terminals, O’Leary has proposed an entertainment venue along Jimmy Carter Boulevard in Norcross, with a hotel, spa and performing arts theater, anchored by a 7,500-terminal gambling floor.
Sue Everhart, the Georgia GOP chairwoman, said the question was not designed for a specific project.
“The non-binding ballot question regarding casino gambling in Georgia is simply that: a non-binding question to gauge the interest of Georgians in the hypothetical approval of casino gambling in our state. The ballot question was submitted to the Georgia Republican Party, carefully considered before our executive committee and ultimately was approved by a vote of the full body,” she said. “Despite any individual’s vested interest in the topic of gambling throughout Georgia, our ballot question simply serves to provide an opportunity for Peach State voters to voice their opinions on this topic through a non-binding resolution.”