(The Center Square) – Major League Baseball's decision to pull its mid-summer all-star game from Atlanta in response to a voting reform law could have a $100 million economic impact, a tourism official said.
Cobb Travel & Tourism President and CEO Holly Quinlan said MLB's action would hurt the hospitality industry the most, including hotels, transportation, entertainment, food and retail.
"This would have been a big boost to Cobb [County] businesses and help with recovery efforts after the COVID-19 pandemic," Quinlan said at a news conference Friday.
Georgia lawmakers passed Senate Bill 202 on March 25, and Gov. Brian Kemp signed it into law the same day. The bill had many tentacles, including revamping absentee voting in the state.
Under SB 202, absentee voters will have to write their driver's license number, identification card number, voter registration number or the last four digits of their Social Security number with their birthdate on ballots.
The bill also made changes to the locations of ballot drop boxes and banned buses from transporting voters to polling sites.
Opponents argued the law disenfranchises Black voters and compared the measure to civil rights limits on Black people during the Jim Crow Era. It drew criticism from Atlanta-based businesses Coca-Cola and Delta, along with President Joe Biden and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
“Over the last week, we have engaged in thoughtful conversations with Clubs, former and current players, the Players Association, and The Players Alliance, among others, to listen to their views,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said Friday in a statement. “I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Manfred said.
Kemp has spent more than a week defending the voting reform law and has insisted it expands voting access in Georgia. He has criticized those who have just read headlines and not the bill.
"Yesterday, Major League Baseball caved to fear and lies from liberal activists," Kemp said Saturday during a news conference. "They ignored the facts of our new election integrity law, and they ignored the consequences of their decision on our local community."
Atlanta last hosted the MLB all-star game in 2000, and MLB said it had an economic impact of $49 million, which equates to $74.8 million today. The 2019 MLB all-star game in Cleveland, the last all-star game played, had an economic impact of of $65 million, MLB said.