Developer, NFL Star Address Gambling Complex Concerns
Norcross Patch speaks to developer Dan O'Leary and former NFL player Herschel Walker about the proposed facility in unincorporated Norcross.
The proposed gambling complex in unincorporated Norcross has been a controversial topic since it was announced late February.
Developer Dan O'Leary and NFL star Herschel Walker, who recently announced his restaurant and bar involvement in the project, spoke with Norcross Patch on Thursday to get an updated scoop on the destination gaming facility and answer community concerns.
O'Leary said that everything such as the finances, architects and contractors are set for the $1 billion project. Since the gambling complex plans to carry only video lottery terminals, which are legal, the developers just need approval from the Georgia Lottery Board and the Gwinnett County Commission.
They hope to speak with the lottery board at its next meeting in mid-April, but they haven't heard back in terms of scheduling a dialogue.
If the lottery board approves the project, then the county commission would consider the complex's rezoning request for mixed-use since the site would include more than just VLTs. The proposed facility at OFS near Jimmy Carter Boulevard and I-85 will have a hotel, a venue, retail and fine dining.
If the commission gives the green light, O'Leary said, construction would begin immediately.
The facility would be finished in 18 months, which, O'Leary said, could start generating revenue for the HOPE scholarship at a crucial point. The Georgia Student Finance Commission predicts that, in three years, the award for the HOPE scholar will be less than 50 percent, he said.
"If we're approved for the project by the end of this year, we could have the necessary money to save HOPE before that shortfall occurs," he added.
HOPE is one of the main reasons why former NFL player Herschel Walker agreed to work with O'Leary on the project.
"This is the chance to save education," said Walker, who's been talking with O'Leary about the project for the past few years. "I think this is one of the best things the state of Georgia can do at this time."
He added that it's also a good chance for job creation, since O'Leary's statistics show that the project will create 2,500 permanent jobs.
Addressing the community's issue of location and that the facility could have chosen a site further north, O'Leary and Walker disagree. O'Leary called OFS's 122 acres the "perfect site," and Walker explained that if it were further north, that would mean the jobs would be further north, too.
Traffic is another concern since the site is expected to bring in six million people every year. Regardless if the project gets approved or not, the Department of Trasnportation will be creating a diverging diamond intersection at Jimmy Carter by the end of the year to help with traffic, said O'Leary.
Additionally, there's already two left-hand turn lanes at the road entrance for the proposed site on Crescent Drive.
Many citizens believe it will increase crime, too, but O'Leary believes that's completely false.
"There are 38 other states that have VLT gaming or greater," he said. "In almost every instance, crime actually goes down, not up."
The facility will be heavily enforced inside, as well. Guests will have to be 21 to enter the gambling complex, and security and Gwinnett County police will be on site. Procedures to spot customers with gambling addiction also will be in place.
"The controls at our facility are much more restrictive, and also a lot more meaningful than any game being played by the Georgia Lottery," he said. He gave the example of the scratch-off lottery machines at grocery stores and how no one usually oversees customers' ages and how often they play.
At the end of the day, O'Leary wants to remind the public that the project isn't just about gambling.
"While there may be a gaming floor, there's a whole lot more to this project than just the VLT machines," said O'Leary.
Walker's restaurant and pub is the only business venture that has been officially announced so far, but O'Leary said he's been working with many other retail and dining companies, too.
"I think this is one of the best opportunities that I can do," said Walker. "By helping to get something like this started, a multiple entertainment center, I think people can have the chance to come and see really how beautiful the state of Georgia [is and] how beautiful Atlanta [is]."