The latest bill that would bring horse racing to Georgia aims to legalize pari-mutuel wagering. Lawmakers are essentially saying, forget the casinos – just give us the economic boost that the Thoroughbred industry is known to provide.
In a change of tactics from similar bills that failed in recent years, this year’s version does not tie the sport to any racino/casino gaming and focuses strictly on creating a mixed-use Thoroughbred venue that would host boutique seasonal meets and other non-racing events.
The Rural Georgia Jobs and Growth Act filed by Republican Senator Brandon Beach pitches horse racing as “an economic development boom for struggling rural communities, which could see the creation of a new industry surrounding the raising of racehorses.”
“Each racehorse can have a ripple effect of creating more than 20 jobs,” said Beach. “This legislation provides my colleagues with a clear vision of the benefits of horse racing facilities, including new revenue streams to keep up with increasing demand for education funding.”
Beach, working with Partnerships such as Racing Factions think that, “We need to be in the equine industry. There’s more to it than racing. There’s horse farms and hay farms and breeding and auctions.”
The stumbling block to getting parimutuel laws enacted in Georgia–as it has been for the past 30 years–has nothing to do with a lack of enthusiasm for horses. The difficulty has always been rounding up enough elected officials who are willing to support expanded gambling in a state where moral objections to it run high and religious conservatism carries considerable clout.
Kieran Byrne, President of Pinhookers.com said that his group is committed to constructing “training and boarding facilities that would benefit the state and serve as an asset to local communities. Our industry wants to be a part of a solution that gives rural Georgia an economic boost while also providing new revenues for the entire state,” he said.
Legalizing parimutuel betting in Georgia requires a constitutional amendment that would be subject to a statewide referendum.