As a lot of poker-playing residents of the United States’ traditional Old South are aware, it’s a region of the country with comparatively few live-poker options, especially of the casino-based or dedicated cardroom variety. That situation actually became a little worse a couple months back with the raid targeting the Little Kings and Queens club in Buford, Georgia, which drew quite a few players from the metro Atlanta area (KAP’s home, for those who don’t know), but is frankly unlikely to ever reopen its doors.

Pro-poker change has always been slow, but from Virginia to north Florida, there’s at least some new growth in poker. And closer to home, there’s at least the chance that casino gaming, likely to include poker, could at long last come to Georgia. Let’s run down some of the recent developments.

A new Caesars casino in Virginia will include a WSOP poker room

Like Georgia, Virginia is one of a minority of U.S. states with no real casino opportunities. That’s changing. Just two weeks ago, ground was broken on a new Caesars casino-destination venue in Danville, Virginia, which is just over the North Carolina border to the northeast of Greensboro. It’s going to be a big deal for this part of the country.

According to promotional materials, when it opens in 2024, Caesars Danville will include a 500-room hotel and a world-class casino gaming floor with over 1,300 slots, 85 live table games, 24 electronic table games, a WSOP poker room and a Caesars Sportsbook. In addition, the resort will feature a full-service spa, pool, high-quality bars and restaurants, a 2,500-seat state-of-the-art live entertainment theater and 40,000 square feet of meeting and convention space.

The WSOP poker room is of course the item of interest. While its exact size hasn’t been announced, and it’s likely to not be quite as roomy as the available space at Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina, expect that Caesars Danville will also get to host a WSOP Circuit stop. For a lot of Georgians, it’ll be a roughly equivalent trip as going to Cherokee, so it’ll increase the poker opportunities, even allowing for the several-hours drive.

BestBet announces third Northeast Florida location plans

If you’re one of our southern-Georgia readers, you’re perhaps more likely to make trips to the Mississippi poker rooms or to the Jacksonville, Florida area, where BestBet already operates two popular poker rooms.

Make that three. Today, BestBet announced the opening of its third northeast Florida room, in St. Augustine. Along with the two already existing BestBet poker rooms in Jacksonville, BestBet has established a dominant market presence in the corner of Florida, and it represents one of the closest true poker options for many of Georgia’s poker players. As many of you know, BestBet has already hosted some WPT stops, and though it lost one last year due to the pandemic, it’s still a regional draw.

Stacey Abrams’ plan for casinos… in Georgia

Though we don’t often get directly political here at KAP, it’s worth mentioning Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams plans for expanding gambling throughout Georgia if she’s elected in November. Georgia is really on the anti-gambling extreme edge, when considered among all 50 U.S. states. It’s one of just four U.S. states at the present time where there’s no commercial or tribal casinos, pari-mutuel wagering, online gaming, or sports betting. That leaves charitable gaming (which can’t be stretched very far, as the Little Kings and Queens saga shows, lottery tickets, and a lot of grey-market and underground gambling.

Abrams hopes to change that and bring Georgia more in line with many other states. A little over a week ago, Abrams released her general plans for expanded gambling in Georgia, which include her support for legislation enabling online sports gambling, plus a constitutional amendment to allow casinos in the state. The idea is to capture needed tax revenue from gambling activity that’s already going on anyway, in one form or another. Abrams hopes that any tax revenue garnered from expanded gambling will be used as a permanent funding source for educational needs throughout Georgia.

Abrams’ tentative plans would call for between one and three casinos to be licensed and developed somewhere in the state. One of those would certainly be close to the Atlanta metro area. Throwing darts at the map on the wall, also licensing casino venues somewhere near Columbus and Savannah would give a three-casino plan the greatest geographic and population coverage.

It’s a long way from reality. Abrams appears to be in a tight battle to be elected, and even if she succeeds, getting a gambling-expansion plan passed involves the entire state legislature, with plenty of potential hurdles and pitfalls. Gambling is also rarely the number-one concern for most voters, but it’s still a small part of the greater mix. Overall, however, things are slowly looking brighter for live-poker opportunities in the South.

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