Gov. Roy Barnes is right in his cautious opposition to the creation of a Native American reservation and gambling casino in Sparta. Sure, Sparta and Hancock County could be transformed from one of Georgia's poorest areas into an economic hot spot. Just imagine: Sparta could become the Branson, Mo., of the South.
Sparta and Hancock County, however, are ill-equipped to handle the problems casinos bring. They'd have to dramatically expand their emergency medical facilities and fire, police and ambulance services. There would have to be a new jail. Homeless shelters, counseling centers, and suicide hotlines would have to be developed. The state would have to build new roads. Business people would need time to build pawnshops, flop houses, tourist traps and liquor stores. It would take years to develop the infrastructure and supporting businesses.
But don't despair, we have all those systems in place now in Augusta. The Native Americans can buy Regency Mall and build several casinos right there. And the additional tax revenues can be used to overhaul our water department. Think of it. We can play the slots at the Broken Pipe Casino or toss the dice at the Yellow Water Inn. Business will be so good and traffic so congested that we'll have to limit gambling patrons. On even days they can play blackjack and the slots, and on odd days roulette and craps.
What do you think, governor? We've got to do something with Regency Mall.
Greg Capers, Augusta