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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 it was announced late February.

Developer Dan O'Leary and NFL star Herschel Walker, who recently announced , 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]."

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LilZ April 06, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Well of course THEY think it's the 'perfect' location. I don't really call that "addressing the concern." Let them try living and driving in that area every day, like I do. Then they'd see what is wrong with that location. Who gives a crap if jobs go further north? Jobs are great but they're needed everywhere, so that is a moot point to me.
Norcross4ever April 07, 2012 at 08:36 PM
I think it will be an economic boom to a fairly depressd area. Something needs to be done with that property. Right now it is just a waste. And if it isn't something like this, it will be apartments, condos or maybe another strop mall with a nail salon and/dry dry cleaners. And the arguement that it will bring crime is just baseless. A Walmart Super Store is a much bigger, easier target that a facility like this. Last but not least, this is not casino gambling (not that I would be opposed to that) but rather it is just another way to play the GA lottery. If you don't want to play, just don't go. At least this money goes to HOPE and not some out of state mega-compnay like Harrahs.
AleXander Dodd April 08, 2012 at 03:27 AM
"Last but not least, this is not casino gambling (not that I would be opposed to that) but rather it is just another way to play the GA lottery." You are correct that right now their current stated plans are just to have one floor supporting VLT gambling, but just because its not casino gambling does not make it less dangerous or less harmful for compulsive gamblers. Unfortunately VLT gambling exhibits the highest levels of problem gambling in relation to time, money, and other forms of gambling. About one out of every 28 people who have ever tried these gambling machines reports having experienced problems with the amount of time or money spent on the activity and is the highest rate of self-reported problem development compared to any other form of gambling. I hope more people will do their own due diligence on the matter and come to their own conclusion on whether or not the statically proven social problems that spawn from gambling are worth the estimated economical benefits. Personally, I cringe when I see people post comments about how we should support gambling in our area in order to help HOPE or increase revenue since I don’t believe in exploiting other people’s addictions in order to generate extra tax income.
Norcross4ever April 10, 2012 at 03:46 PM
People can get addicted to anything. We as a society will never be able to protect people from themselves. Whether they are scratching lotto tickets or pushing a button on a machine, it is all the same. Everything in moderation.
Deborah Cox January 03, 2013 at 03:07 PM
OK so its Jan 2013 is there going to be a new Casino in GA this yr or 2014 ? and if so where tiredof giving CherokeeNC GA $$$$$
Sarah Bakhtiari (Editor) January 03, 2013 at 10:27 PM
Hi, Deborah. In order for the gambling complex to move forward, Dan O'Leary would have to get approval from the Georgia Lottery Board to operate the video lottery terminals. So far, the board has been unresponsive to O'Leary's request. Additionally, O'Leary said he no longer controls the property at the OFS site where he aims to build the complex. Read about it here: http://patch.com/A-00F7

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