Harry Geisinger of Roswell is nothing if not determined. At least as far back as the 2009-2010 session of the legislature, Geisinger has proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow Georgians to bet on horse racing This year, he’s done it again with H.R. 1, which was prefiled before Thanksgiving, and finally placed in the House hopper on Monday. Progress has been slow, with the resolution authorizing the amendment dying in committee, if it got that far.
This year, a similar resolution authorizing a constitutional amendment on pari-mutuel wagering was filed in the Senate as S.R. 135, sponsored by Brandon Beach. The resolution will get a hearing today in the Regulated Industries and Utilities committee. The House and Senate versions have some differences: the House version would not permit wagering in a given county unless it was approved by voters, while the Senate version is silent on that issue. The House bill directs proceeds from wagering be spent on tuition scholarships, grants, or loans to Georgia students to attend college or technical school in Georgia, whether part of the University System or Technical College System or not. Other permitted uses would be pre-kindergarten and trauma care. The Senate version specifies that the scholarships, grants and loans be needs based, and is silent on trauma centers.
We hear the Senate bill might have a chance of passing in the upper chamber with the required two thirds majority, and then taken up, and perhaps passed in the House. While the Governor does not have to sign the resolution, his opinion could make a difference. Governor Deal is not a fan of gambling, and if he were to publicly oppose passage of the constitutional amendment, the chances of the enabling resolution passing the two chambers would diminish. On the other hand, if he acts as he did with the issue of Sunday alcohol sales, the idea has a better chance of going before voters in 2016. And in that case, it could be paired with another amendment authorizing the state’s Opportunity School District.