Kasim Reed hedges his bets on Georgia’s casino debate

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said it was too early for him to weigh in on a new proposal that emerged this week to allow two casinos in the state,  including one that would likely be in city limits.

His wait-and-see comments to our AJC colleague Scott Trubey and a scrum of other reporters are a far cry from his staunch opposition in 2015, when he told reporters he is “not there at all” on legalizing gambling.

“I believe Las Vegas is in Las Vegas for a reason,” the mayor told reporters then. “I have a real issue with putting a (gambling) facility in Atlanta.”



This time around, he seems open to the debate, saying he would leave the matter to lawmakers to flesh out. He also declined to discuss the idea of putting one of those casinos – supporters are now calling them destination resorts – at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

“That’s above my pay grade,” he said. “When the issue becomes ripe for the city of Atlanta to become involved in, I will have some comment at a later time.”

He added: “You can live a long happy life by not telling the folks across the street what they should be doing. I’m going to keep my advice to myself and my comments to myself while they work on a bill.”

His comments mirror another one-time opponent who has somewhat softened his stance.

Gov. Nathan Deal said before last year’s legislative session that casinos have “very little redeeming value” and that he wouldn’t support the legislation unless a higher percentage of gambling revenue went to education.

On Tuesday, Deal said he wouldn’t actively a proposal legalizing gambling as long as it doesn’t “adversely impact” the state’s lottery.

Neither Reed or Deal will have a direct say in the gambling initiative, a constitutional amendment that doesn’t require the governor’s signature. But both have significant political clout and, depending on how they break, could provide cover for lawmakers looking for a way to support – or oppose – the measure.

The comments came after pro-gambling lawmakers introduced legislation this week that would tax the casinos at 20 percent and include a needs-based college scholarship to try to win over Democratic support.

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