A casino in Augusta? Gov. Brian Kemp says won't stand in the way of GA casinos

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019
News 12 at 11

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Georgia could be inching closer to a plan to legalize gambling.

Gov. Brian Kemp says even though he doesn't love the idea, he won't stand in the way. Kemp says it's something voters should decide.

Developers in Augusta say a casino downtown could have huge potential. The owner of the Old Modjeska building, now known as Empire Night Club, says a casino could be just what it needs to keep standing another 100 years.

Developers like Zia Ahmadi say this is a golden opportunity.

"My first priority is to create jobs, as many as I can," said Ahmadi.

For years, Ahmadi has owned the Old Modjeska building downtown.

"Especially when the Masters comes, when there's golf, I know a lot of people and their friends will end up coming here," said Ahmadi.

His goal since he bought the building is to make it into a casino and he's been waiting for this moment.

"For the gambling tables and also the slot machines, we will have enough space for it. Right now I have about 16,000 square feet," said Ahmadi.

He has plans to build a restaurant and lounge upstairs. But before he can complete his vision, the state has to legalize gambling and that will be up to voters.

"I've never gambled in my entire life. Like I've never bought a lottery ticket, a scratch-off nothing like that," said Gloria Nkutula, who lives in Augusta.

Gloria Nkutula says gambling isn’t' her scene, but she's not against the idea.

"But also like more business for Augusta, more business for the people in it so why not,” said Nkutula.

Lawmakers have already drafted a plan to change Georgia’s constitution.

"Augusta is a big and up-and-coming city. Like I remember a few years ago, we didn't even have half the stuff we do," said Nkutula.

It's not clear how many casinos the state would authorize or where they would be but the excitement is there.

"I just don't see what could be wrong with any of that honestly," said Nkutula.

Kemp’s announcement triggered several legislative reviews so residents will have to wait and see. When Gov. Nathan Deal did a similar thing with Sunday alcohol sales, many cities jumped on the opportunity to make it happen so people are encouraged

Other developers News 12 spoke to say it could happen but there are other cities like Atlanta, Savannah, and Columbus also in the running.