Is It Finally Time for Wagering on Horse Racing?

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.


  1. saltycracker says:

    Horseracing….it’s for the children…..seems more appropriate if horseracing was about transportation.

    The question might get a yes for the wrong use of the revenue.

  2. blakeage80 says:

    So is this bill just about the betting or allowing the actual racing to take place here? Or are they the same thing?

    • Steve Crayne says:

      In order to bring the great American Sport of Horse Racing to Georgia, pari-mutuel wagering must first be legalized.

  3. Will Durant says:

    No. New tracks are mostly money losers for all. A couple of upscale poker rooms could sure help the convention biz however.

    • blakeage80 says:

      Most of the profitable tracks are only profitable because they also have slots and other forms of gambling is what I’ve heard.

      • Will Durant says:

        Mostly at the johnny-come-latelys like Birmingham which I believe gave up live racing altogether. Thoroughbreds not only cost a lot up front but are higher maintenance than a Donald Trump mistress. People just won’t pay to gamble on the same 3rd rate nags over and over. Established tracks like Santa Anita in California are still able to profit without other forms even though California does have some other offerings available.

        Atlanta does need to do something to spark the convention trade however and this Governor is dead set against casinos after sending up a trial balloon in the 2008 race. I think poker is in a different class as it can be argued that it is more a game of skill than chance. Also, unlike most other forms of gambling you are not playing against the house just the other players. The house gets to rake (tax?) a piece of the action that is usually around 5-10%. California has run successful poker rooms for years.

        • blakeage80 says:

          And there’s no laws against guns in poker rooms in Georgia. This could all go very wild west very fast. 🙂

        • Steve Crayne says:

          The Georgia Horse Racing Coalition is looking to bring world class racing to this state 20 days per year based on the successful models of Saratoga, Keeneland, Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park and others. As the Executive Director of GHRC, our business model has been vetted by the brightest minds in the industry and will bring 1,000’s of jobs and millions of dollars in funding for the state without any taxpayer monies to build a racing / entertainment complex. Georgia has a great establised Equine Industry and we have the opportunity to build a park from the ground up that the rest of the industry will envy.

  4. Raleigh says:

    Horse racing, that’s boring. I want to bet on mud “rassling” at local county commission and school board meetings. That would be much more entertaining.

  5. benevolus says:

    I remember when- I think it was Cub Foods- had some horse racing tie-in. I think you got a number on your receipt and then on Wednesday night they would show a race from somewhere and if your horse won you got a discount or something. That was actually kind of fun.

    • blakeage80 says:

      Haha! My Great-Grandfather loved Cub Foods. He thought it was brilliant to save money and bag his own groceries. (he owned his own grocery in Decatur for forever) He never mentioned the horse racing thing though. Maybe it was his guilty pleasure, gambling for discounts.

  6. zedsmith says:

    Can’t we kill two birds with one stone and legalize wagering on self driving cars. Cruelty free fun for the whole family.

  7. Dave Bearse says:

    I’d support the bill if the same percentage of the gross wagers as lottery revenue went to HOPE scholarships. That won’t happen though, in which case the legislation generally diverts HOPE revenue to special interest profit.

    However, don’t underestimate what wining and dining campaign contributions can accomplish.

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