Horse Racing Bill Gets a Push from Georgia Senate

February 23, 2021

Georgia Senator Brandon Beach introduced another horse racing bill called SB30 last January 27. It is titled the Rural Georgia Jobs and Growth Act, which has the same title as the previous bill that he filed during the 2019/2020 legislative session.

SB30 is a bill that could legalize online sports betting and casino gambling within the state. While there is no federal law that prohibits Americans from gambling at online casinos based offshore, its local operations are prohibited in Georgia.  The state has specific laws that do not allow wagering on horse and dog racing.

More About SB30 Bill

The SB30 is a 51-page bill that will allow the construction of up to three mixed-use developments featuring a racetrack, hotels, and restaurants. Based on this bill, these facilities will also be allowed to include convention spaces, entertainment venues, and retail stores.

When it comes to the racetracks, one of the approved complexes will have to be located within 50 miles of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The investment for this particular racetrack should also cost at least 250 million US dollars.  The other two racetracks will have to be placed outside of metro Atlanta. The two are required to have a smaller investment which is at least 125 million US dollars.

The Senate believes that bringing horse racing to the state will create good economical results for Georgia with over 1 billion US dollars of revenue each year. Beach said that the revenue would not only come from the racetracks but also breeding horses.

Senator Beach spoke further about this and said, “When we first got into the movie business, a lot of people thought we weren’t going to be successful. I think we can do the same thing in the equine industry.”

Beach said that what’s different this time is that horse racing will be able to operate in the state without state subsidies like the large tax credit that the state has provided for the past dozen years for the film and TV productions. He said, “It’s all private investment. We’re not going to have any public investment in this.”

The proceeds of the generated revenue will then go towards the state’s efforts for education, health care, and rural development. Some of the proceeds will also go to the efforts of the state to combat gambling problems and to promote the horse racing and breeding industries locally.

This isn’t the first time that a similar bill was introduced in the state. What Beach is saying is that the main driver behind legalizing horse racing in the state is not only to create racetracks but also to create jobs.

Gambling is already pervasive in Georgia but so far, the state is not yet maximizing this even if it needs more tax revenues. “We’ve got the COAM (coin-operated amusement machines) and the lottery drawings, but the lottery is not able to completely fund the HOPE Scholarship [program] anymore. We’re going to have to find different revenue sources,” Beach said.

The bill also includes provisions for historical horse racing, simulcasting, and advance deposit wagering. When it comes to licensing, there will be 10-year initial licenses that will be up for bid. The price for each license will be 50 million US dollars each. These licenses can be renewed after 10 years for up to 250 million US dollars.

However, it should be pointed out that operators with no racetrack experience will not be entertained. A clause on the bill states, “No application for the equestrian facility shall be considered unless the applicant, a majority of its owners who individually possess at least 5% of the applicant’s stock or membership or its management, can demonstrate a successful history of operating at least a horse racing track in one of the previous five years from the date of the application.”

Other Bills Related to Gambling

Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) has reported that two other gambling-related bills have also been filed recently. One of these would require the decision of Georgia voters when it comes to allowing casinos to operate locally in the state. This will mean that online casinos in the USA will be able to operate within Georgia. The other one is particularly about legalizing sports betting.

The US now allows all states to legalize and regulate sports betting. It was in May 2018 when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 was stricken down by the Supreme Court and since then, many states have already legalized sports betting.

Now, for any of these bills to pass, the state will have to approve a constitutional amendment. However, sports betting supporters believe that this isn’t necessary. They said that a bill only requires that more than half of each chamber should support a measure to be passed on to the governor’s desk. Meanwhile, constitutional amendments will need two-thirds of each chamber to clear the General Assembly and a majority vote during an election.

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