Developer Dan O'Leary went before community members, the Gwinnett Village CID Board of Directors and staff at its monthly meeting last Thursday to give a PowerPoint presentation on his destination gaming facility project in the Norcross area.
O'Leary, who's been working closely with the CID for more than a year, made his usual statements about what the "world class" project entails: It would be built at the OFS fiber optic site at I-85 and Jimmy Carter Boulevard; it would have video lottery terminals alongside upscale restaurants, retail and a hotel; 2,500 people would be employed the first day it opens; 6 million visits are estimated for its first year; and of course, it would generate millions of dollars every year for HOPE.
"For such a complicated and important problem, our project is the silver bullet for the HOPE scholarship and pre-K. It can fully fund this program back to the way it originally was," O'Leary said, referring to when HOPE was paying for all student fees, books and tuition.
O'Leary's last major attempt at getting the ball rolling for the project was the when he went before the board to gain the approval of VLT use.
Board Chairman Jimmy Braswell said the board has the authority to approve the use of VLTs without the Georgia legislature or Gov. Nathan Deal, but they were hesitant to make a decision without the support of either one. O'Leary noted at the CID meeting that Deal is against the project because he believes it is casino gambling.
During his April presentation, O'Leary had invited the board to come out to the OFS site for a tour, and so far, O'Leary is still waiting. Given the board's lack of response, he's hoping to gain more support from the community.
"The more we tell the story and the more people understand what the project's really about, the more and more support we gain," said O'Leary.
While the gambling complex proposal has stayed quiet in the media since the lottery board presentation, a relating to the project has made O'Leary livid.
The question, "Should Georgia have casino gambling with funds going to education?" has been placed on the Republican primary ballot, and O'Leary said O'Leary Partners had nothing to do with it.
"A lot of people think, 'Oh, wow! You've made some headway and you've gotten them to ask the question,'" he said, with "them" meaning the GOP. "We would have asked the question a lot differently and made it very specific, stating that this gaming is an expansion of the Georgia Lottery; that it would be owned, controlled and operated by the lottery; and the funds would go to the HOPE scholarship, rather than commercial casinos with funds just going to education."
O'Leary thinks the question is too open-ended and believes it will fail because of the way it's asked. The Democratic ballot has the similar question, "Would you support Casino gambling in Gwinnett County?"
After the presentation, O'Leary addressed questions from the CID audience. He gave his thoughts on how his facility would affect the community, traffic and crime.
When answering a question about how it would affect homes values in the area, O'Leary said he believes home prices would benefit from the gambling complex. CID Board member Ann Cameron agreed.
"You're talking about people wanting to live near where they work," said Cameron.
Another board member also spoke positively about the project, especially when Delaware's Dover Downs Hotel and Casino was mentioned, which is what project is based off of.
"You could tell there were a lot of restaurants and shops in the surrounding areas that were doing better as a result of the casino being there," said Morsberger, who added that he was surprised at how middle class Dover Downs was when he visited it. "I would see it putting a lot more restaurants and retail more successfully in [Gwinnett Village's] corridor. I would also see it creating a lot of these jobs."
Morsberger also remarked on how he was in the Georgia Legislature in the early 90s and had pushed for the Georgia Lottery when it was first on the ballot, which sparked a lot of negative comments then.
"A lot of the people who had told me I was going to hell for putting [the Georgia Lottery] on the ballot came to me and said, 'Thank you for allowing my kid to get an education at the University of Georgia,'" Morsberger said. "They have actually realized that it was a good move and that it's been managed very cleanly."
What do you think about the gambling complex proposal and remarks from the CID? Tell us in the comments.