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PDC Members Question Gambling Complex

The proposal for a gambling complex raised a number of questions at the PDC meeting Wednesday.

The discussion on the right outside Norcross city limits raised a number of questions at the Progressional Development Committee meeting Wednesday.

Gwinnett Village CID Program Director John McHenry gave insight to the proposal at the March 7 meeting since the community improvement district plans to work with developer Dan O'Leary on the project.

McHenry said the $1 billion complex plans to consist of a hotel with 500 rooms, a parking garage, theatre and gambling area with 7,500 video lottery terminals. Because of there are no plans of poker-type gambling, the complex should not be confused for a casino, said McHenry.

He added that developers have looked at a similar complex in Delaware called Dover Downs that has VLTs as its gambling component, in addition to other attractions.

"It's high-end, it's clean, it's safe, and that's what we're going for," said McHenry, referring to the type of facility the CID wants to bring to the Norcross area.

Some of the benefits noted were: bringing $350 million to the HOPE scholarship and preschools; supplying 2,500 jobs; purchasing items such as food, beverages and entertainment, which could be purchased from local businesses and bring revenue to them; possibly stop underground gambling rings; and having 5 million visitors a year.

While some citizens commented that it's too early to give an opinion on the whole idea, many questions were still raised. With the large number of visitors, for example, many had concerns on traffic. Security is the No. 1 issue, said McHenry, but the CID's second concern is traffic, so it would not be ignored.

"It's a great project," said McHenry. "We're extremely excited about it. It's something the CID and [CID Executive Director] Chuck Warbington have been working on since last April. It's just the process of going through due diligence and making sure it's something that makes sense for that site."

He also added that the developer for the complex plans to use many of the existing buildings already at OFS, so it's good for adaptive reuse.

Another negative point, which was raised by PDC chairman Gordon Tomlinson, was that the complex could syphon off revenue from local businesses, too.

"If the benefit is for the community, I like it," said Ruthy Lachman Paul, a Norcross citizen. "People are going to gamble, and we cannot stop it, so it could at least go back to the community." She said she likes the fact that the funds could help the HOPE scholarship and preschools, but she wants the revenue to help the area in other aspects, too.

One PDC member asked if the citizens get to have an official say on the matter, and so far, the only step the developer needs in order to start building is for the Georgia Lottery board to approve the VLTs. The first phase of the project could finish as soon as 18 months, said McHenry.

Tomlinson said O'Leary and Gwinnett CID Executive Director Chuck Warbington plan to speak at a PDC meeting some time in April.

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