Casino Gambling is back…

In February of 2017 the United Keetoowah band of the Cherokee wrote a letter to Governor Deal expressing their intent to build a casino in the state of Georgia. At the time it was largely dismissed, as the Keetoowah are located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. They are not recognized in the state of Georgia. Building that casino would require two steps. First, the members of the Keetoowah tribe would need an avenue to be recognized by the state of Georgia. Secondly, they would need to negotiate a deal with the Governor to operate a casino in Georgia. Right now, both of those steps are underway.
Last week, with little fanfare or attention, a bill was introduced that paves the way for the Keetoowah band of the Cherokee to bypass the state constitution. House bill 823 recognizes the North Georgia Cherokee Indians as an official tribe. Based on the language in the bill, members of the United Keetoowah band of the Cherokee would be eligible to join, allowing them to secure recognition in the state of Georgia. Whether intentional or not, this bill is the first step for the Keetoowah band of the Cherokee to bypass our constitution.
Based on federal law passed under Ronald Reagan, the state of Georgia has the ability to block a sovereign tribe from building a casino in our state. We have a casino gambling ban in our constitution, which gives us that authority. Last year the casino industry attempted to legalize casino gambling in the legislature. They even used underhanded tricks, like bringing up the bill in committee with no advanced notice to sneak it through at the last minute. Georgians flooded the legislature with phones calls and emails, and ultimately the bill failed.
Unfortunately, that’s not the end. The casino industry has invested entirely too much money trying to buy politicians, they will not give up that easily. Now they are trying to sneak casinos in through the Indian reservations. I fully support recognizing the North Georgia Cherokee Indian Tribe, but we cannot allow this bill to be a vehicle to secretly usher in casino gambling.
Five different candidates for Governor (2 Democrats and 3 Republicans) have received campaign contributions from the casino gambling lobby. In fact, Stacey Abrams has received more than $17,000. If this bill is passed in its current form, the first step will be complete. The only thing stopping casino gambling at that point will be the next governor. Both Democrats have been paid excessive amounts of money by the casino lobby, and more than half of the Republican candidates have pocketed casino money. I fear they will jump at the opportunity to cut a deal with the casino lobbyists.
Casino gambling robs the HOPE scholarship, it drives drug use and human trafficking, and it puts a great deal of strain on our underpaid law enforcement officers. Everywhere casinos have been tried, they are always followed by the same negative consequences.
For that reason, We believe HB 823 should be amended to ban casino gambling on Indian Reservations. We cannot allow thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to circumvent our constitution. Any attempt to legalize casino gambling should be done in a transparent and open way. Urge your senator and representative to stand firm and require an amendment to HB 823.
Sam Thomas
Rev Jesse Mealor
Pastor Jack Lawson
Rev Joseph Leach
Pastor Dwayne Carroll
Rev Lamar Long
Rev Scott Lance
Pastor Cory Sexton

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