Senate Hears Horse Racing Bill but Doesn’t Take a Vote

Cindy Morley

Friday, January 31st, 2020

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State Senator Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) took his proposal for horse racing in Georgia back to the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee Wednesday afternoon. Members heard from Beach as well as a number of opponents to the plan, but did not vote on the proposal. And no future vote was scheduled.

SR 84, which would place the issue on the ballot for voters to decide through a Constitutional Amendment, passed the committee 5-2 last year. Beach said it has been “tweaked” since last year. An accompanying bill, Senate Bill 45, calls for the construction of up to three racetracks in Georgia that would be part of mixed-use developments. It would also create a Georgia Horse Racing Commission that would be tasked with approving licenses and regulating the facilities.

Beach says this industry would bring hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue and thousands of jobs to the state. He also contends that legalizing horse racing in Georgia will boost the economy of rural communities by creating an equine industry with breeding and hay farms.

“If you want to have a breeding industry, it’s essential you have a racetrack,” Beach said. “There are no incentives to breed horses here.”

A number of opponents representing religious organizations and conservative groups spoke out against horse racing in Georgia — saying that it would lead to casinos, increased crime and gambling addictions. John Kent, a retired professor from the University of Illinois, said “horse racing in this country is a dead issue, and argued that “this is a backdoor way to bring casinos into this state.”

Sen. Jeff Mullis (R- Chickamauga) reminded those in attendance at the meeting that gambling is already legal in Georgia. “We have the lottery, and the voters approved it. I think this should be put to the people for a vote.”

Beach echoed Mullis. “We already have gambling in Georgia — we have the lottery. And it doesn’t create a single job. This bill creates jobs. We are very specific in this bill — there will be no casinos.”

He continued, saying he doesn’t “want to just build a racetrack. This would be a real estate development similar to the Atlanta Braves’ park.”

Beach made his proposal hours after Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan (R-Carrollton) said, “The Senate has not shown an appetite to pass any gambling legislation.”