Island stands firm against gambling proposal
The Brunswick News
By Erika Capek
February 22, 2011

The Jekyll Island Authority stood firm Monday against proposed legislation for legalized gambling at the state park.

Before the start of committee meetings, Jekyll Island Authority Chairman Bob Krueger said the board is not in favor of placing video lottery terminals at the state park, as is being proposed by state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah.

"The Jekyll Island Authority does not support any activity that would degrade the family atmosphere on Jekyll Island," Krueger said.

He said residents should address their concerns on the proposal to state Rep. Alex Atwood, R-St. Simons Island, and state Sen. William Ligon, R-Waverly, both of whose districts include Jekyll Island.

Atwood has said previously he will keep an open mind, though he has concerns about the idea.

Stephens, chairman of the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee, said Wednesday that he wants to have video lottery terminals, which are like slot machines, on Jekyll Island and at other popular tourist destinations to boost revenue for the HOPE scholarship that pays college tuition for top students.

He proposes that the gambling machines be in centralized locations, with restricted access and under local control.

Once details are worked out, a bill will be introduced in the House of Representatives, Stephens said last week.

Opponents of the idea include Mindy Egan, co-director of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, a group that works to preserve its perceptions of Jekyll's natural qualities and characteristics. She has said that gambling at a state park is inappropriate for a family-oriented vacation site.

Money raised from gambling would go to the HOPE scholarship and grant program, which also funds the state's prekindergarten program. Both the college and pre-kindergarten programs are now funded by the Georgia Lottery. However, the fund can no longer keep up with demand after years of growth have outpaced lottery sales.