Georgia residents and voters may get a chance to legalize horse race betting. This follows the Senate Committee passing a constitutional amendment earlier this week.
The Senate Regulated Industries Committee passed Senate Resolution 131 on Wednesday. Thereafter, they followed that up by passing Senate Bill 212 on Thursday.
Senate Resolution 131 and Senate Bill 212 are both pieces of legislation that will be integral in Georgian horse racing. These will work towards the full legalization of horse racing and horse race gambling in Georgia. Resolution 131 brings forth the process of voting on horse racing/betting legalization. Furthermore, SB 212 would create a Georgia Horse Racing Commission.
While nothing is quite set in stone, the support for legalized horse racing and betting seems to be flooding in. A recent Georgia Southern University study shows that horse racing could boost the state’s economy by $1.28 billion a year. It also predicted the creation of almost 16,000 jobs over a decade.
This follows in the footsteps of a new plan to legalize gambling in Georgia this year. This would lump Georgia online casinos, pari-mutuel betting on horse racing, and sports betting as a broad gaming expansion referendum where citizens get to vote on all three at once.
Senator Brandon Beach, an Alpharetta Republican and a proponent for horse racing and betting, told news station Fox5 this week:
“We believe we’re going to create a new industry, the equine industry, that will bring $1.2 billion of economic impact to the state of Georiga, and it will particularly help rural Georgia with horse farms and hay farms.”
While the support is there and it seems the legislative groundwork is being laid, it still may take a while for horse racing and betting to be approved in Georgia. Adding horse racing to the types of gambling available in Georgia would mean the constitutional amendment has to:
- Be approved by 2/3rds of each chamber to clear general assembly
- Garner a majority vote in a general election from the voters
If that happens, SB 212 and the Georgia Horse Racing Commission would require a 3.75% tax on money wagered. That money would go towards gambling addiction services, education, and health care.
GA horse betting faces opposition
While it may seem like everyone is for horse racing in Georgia, strong opposition is still making its voice heard.
Georgia is one of the most religious states in the country, with 79% of Georgian adults identifying as practicing Christians. Because of this, there are many church groups speaking out against the new proposed horse racing and betting laws.
Mike Griffin, a lobbyist with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, fears the legalization of horse racing. As he told Fox5, he’s nervous that this betting will then start a domino event of legalizing other, more “problematic” forms of gambling.
As Griffin said in an interview:
“My experience of being here through the years is that typically one thing leads to another…Two years from now there’s a possibility this group will be back here saying, ‘We’re going to have to add (more types of gambling) in here because we’re not making money.’”
Griffin fears that the horse betting bills will prey on the poor, saying, “It appears only rich people drinking wine and eating cheese is all this is about but I tell you it’s going to go beyond that.”
What is the future of sports betting in Georgia
Since the US Supreme Court allowed states to control the legalization of sports betting in their own jurisdictions, 25 states have done so.
Georgia is not yet one of them.
Whether it’s the religious ties or just the legislative backlog, sports betting in Georgia has had a hard time passing.
This is surprising because the Georiga State Lottery is one of the most profitable in the US. However, if the horse racing and the betting bill continues to garner support and eventually passes, Georgia may be on the fast track to full-legalized sports betting.
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