Just a few years after strict regulations of massage businesses in Columbia County booted out seedy prostitution fronts, Georgia lawmakers finally have started work on laws to crack down on such businesses statewide.
Unfortunately, as the state takes one step forward, some politicians want to take a giant leap backward.
It was less than two years ago that video poker was outlawed in Georgia. Now, under the guise of helping the state during tough economic times, some legislators are attempting to resurrect it.
If the rest of Georgias lawmakers have any morals, theyll reject any attempt at backsliding. Just in case, citizens ought to take to the phones to remind them that we dont need a return to the bad old days.
The Dr. Frankenstein attempting to breathe life into this dead monster is state Rep. David Lucas, a Macon Democrat. Lucas became the darling of the electronic gambling industry when, at the end of the regular session of the 2001 Legislature, he took to the floor of the Georgia House and talked until the legislative clock ran out, preventing a vote to ban video poker.
Gov. Roy Barnes, who correctly called video gambling a cancer, put the issue on the states special-session agenda later on in the year, and lawmakers banned the games.
One of the men who fought hardest against video poker was Augusta District Attorney Danny Craig, who wrote the law banning it. Craig is incredulous that lawmakers would even consider resurrecting video poker from the graveyard of bad ideas - without even attempting to regulate the industry.
The legislation to authorize electronic gambling, without repealing Georgias ban on commercial gambling, is simply a fraud on the people of Georgia, Craig says. It will further burden the states law enforcement agencies during a budgetary crisis.
Interesting choice of words: It is that budget crisis that has lawmakers looking for money in all the wrong places. Gov. Sonny Perdue wants to increase sin taxes charged on alcoholic beverages and tobacco products; now, Republican Rep. Earl Ehrhart of Powder Springs is joining Lucas attempting to reintroduce a sin to the state so they can tax it!
Whats next? Drugs? Prostitution? Kiddie porn?
Lucas claims the games, if taxed, would bring $25-50 million in revenue to the state. The reality? Georgias coffers would see some of the money, but the unregulated gambling industry would suck cash out of the weak economy, while further burdening law enforcement.
We already have gambling, of course; the Georgia lottery is the only legal game of chance in the state (if we dont include charity raffles). But the lottery is closely monitored to prevent its operators from cheating customers, and the money goes only to education.
Lucas and Ehrhart, however, would allow an unregulated industry to rip off the weak and the ignorant, and would pump the money into the states general fund where lawmakers could spend the ill-gotten gains anywhere they wanted.
We dont need an industry in Georgia that preys on the most vulnerable citizens and presents a net cost of almost $100 million, even assuming that it would report its cash profits for tax purposes, Craig says.
Georgias budget is unbalanced because lawmakers want to spend more than taxpayers have given them. Its as simple as that. The solution is simple, too: spend less.
Lucas and Ehrhart havent grasped that fundamental truth because theyre busy gambling with Georgias future, which looks pretty sinful - even for a politician.
Contact your lawmakers:
State Sen. Don Cheeks: (404) 656-0045
State Sen. Joey Brush: (404) 657-0406
State Rep. Ben Harbin: (404) 656-0325
Sate Rep. Barry Fleming: (404) 656-0325
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