Georgia racetracks could restore economic heyday

The pari-mutuel concept originated in France in 1862—winnings depending on odds reflecting the popularity of different horses. The next milestone in progress occurred in 1927 when England adopted pari-mutuel wagering as the legal betting system at all tracks in 1927. Further adoptions followed the invention of “totalisator” machines to calculate the winnings fairly and accurately.

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The first legal pari-mutuel horse races using a totalisator began in Florida at the Hialeah track in 1933, and pari-mutuel wagering was legalized in Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Washington and West Virginia that same year. Georgia itself came close to legalizing pari-mutuel wagering for horses and dogs in 1935 when a bill passed the House on March 13 by a vote of 103 to 70.

Proponents argued that, “Florida, California, Kentucky, and numerous other states had paid for roads, schools and other improvements with no ill effects.”  Pari-mutuel wagering is now legal in 43 states as of 2016 and banned in Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Utah, and 36 states operate both live horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

  • Increased State Tax Revenues: A cautious estimate of impact on state coffers is approximately $15 million annually, which is less than half the amount received by states that allow pari-mutuel wagering such as Kentucky and Louisiana.

  • A Larger, More Robust Statewide Equine Industry: The equine industry, with its support businesses (feed production, training, farriers, veterinary services, equine products, etc.), would bring jobs to rural areas of the state where unemployment rates are high.

  • Increased Tourism: Horse racing would enhance Georgia as a destination state, adding yet another activity to our state’s portfolio of tourism attractions.

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Georgia currently has an equine industry of nearly 180,000 horses, and while horse racing—harness racing and steeplechasing—now exists in Georgia, the state does not take advantage of the tax revenues that pari-mutuel wagering would produce.  By allowing pari-mutuel wagering, Georgia would be growing an industry that is already well established.

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Unlike other sports, such as pro football, baseball or basketball, where taxpayers are expected to underwrite the costs of the arena or stadium, tracks in Georgia would be built by private investors. Horse racing in Georgia would be self-sustaining.

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