Horse Racing and Gambling: Job Creator or Scourge?

Senator Brandon Beach and members of the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition presented an optimistic picture of what horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering would bring to the state of Georgia at a meeting of the State Senate Regulated Industries Committee Wednesday afternoon. The committee was considering Senate Resolution 135, which would allow a vote by the people on a constitutional amendment to permit racing and wagering.

In introducing the measure, Sen. Beach called it an economic development bill that would bring jobs to Georgia in the areas of agriculture, hospitality, and tourism, along with those affiliated with running a racetrack. Jack Damico, VP and Treasurer of the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition said that the group anticipated having two ten day racing periods each year, one in the fall and one in the spring, that would include a Georgia Cup and a Georgia Derby. The Georgia races would fit nicely between winter racing in Florida and summer racing in Kentucky.

Should racing and wagering be permitted in the Peach State, supporters estimate it would bring in $31 million worth of scholarships, and create 4-6,000 jobs directly, along with many others indirectly.

The key benefits, according to Senator Beach, would be that the effort would be privately financed, with no state money involved. Up to 87% of the money wagered would be from out of state, and that the betting would complement the current lottery, rather than competing with it. In addition, the proponents claimed they oppose having casino gambling at the racetrack, saying that a casino would detract from the racing environment.

While those in favor of the bill painted a rosy picture, other witnesses felt otherwise. Mike Griffin of the Georgia Baptist Convention testified that his organization opposes gambling, and thinks that horse racing is the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent that would ultimately bring in casino gambling. Griffin was followed by Paul Smith of Citizen’s Impact, a group that represents several hundred Georgia churches. Smith claimed that while racing and wagering may be bringing in new jobs, some of those jobs would be law enforcement and mental health professionals needed to deal with a possible epidemic of gambling addiction.

The committee planned to have only a hearing, and not to take a vote on the measure. It’s unknown when the committee might hold a vote, and whether there would be additional hearings on the measure. In any case, the bill’s supporters and opponents had made their opinions known.

28 comments

  1. John Konop says:

    ……..possible epidemic of gambling addiction….

    I lean toward being a libertarian on social and fiscal policy……with that said, I did think when gambling was limited this argument had some merit….Now, we have the internet on line gaming and numerous Indian casinos in driving distance.

    So now it seems like a fairly simple argument, do we want the revenue, and jobs here or not? Senator Beach is right, we are fooling ourselves, if we do not do this, the money, and jobs will just go elsewhere….

      • Will Durant says:

        Yeah, this is why Vegas sends a Gulfstream out to pick up the whales.

        Legalizing gambling that is happening anyway only changes whose syndicate gets the money. At least the state getting a hand in means some of it might filter down to a good use. The guarantee is that none of it goes to a good purpose as long as it remains illegal.

        • zedsmith says:

          Ask atlantic city how many whales they’re picking up. Vegas is a special case and Atlanta is never going to be Vegas.

          As for Nanny much– if this state ends its war on other consensual but self destructive behaviors, I’m all for it. Legalize crystal meth and tax it– watch our worker productivity skyrocket– plus lots of new jobs for dfcs case workers and domestic abuse councillors.

        • saltycracker says:

          Noway & Will are just picking on zed ’cause his bolita, numbers running and collection thugs are now on welfare or selling scary meth due to local legalized gambling.

  2. blakeage80 says:

    Most Georgians, like myself, have no idea what a run-of-the-mill horse track is like. Whatever is built here probably won’t be like Churchill Downs or Aintree Racecourse. It will be a miracle if it ends up a high end horse racing facility. I think it’s more likely to end up like the horse track used in that Bill Murray movie, St. Vincent. It will always be seen as a little too seedy for most folks to want to go, much less gamble, there.

    • Ed says:

      NTRA does a good job of making sure real thoroughbred racing is of a high standard. If we’re going to pursue this, that’s what we need to do go a Grade I Stakes which, let’s be honest, is the only thing worth pursuing. I would lean toward no on this mainly because the stakes calendar is already very full, thoroughbred racing doesn’t really have the appeal it used to so a new event I don’t really see becoming that important. The risk of it devolving into some bush-league event with minimal equine health standards that requires subsidization is high.

      And I say all that as someone who loves thoroughbred racing and the attendant betting.

    • Steve Crayne says:

      As Executive Director for The Georgia Horse Racing Coalition this track will must certainly look like Saratoga or Keeneland and will feature the best racing and clubhouse areas will require a sport jacket to to enter. Please visit http://www.gahorseracing.org to see out artist rendition and learn more.

      • blakeage80 says:

        Mr. Crayne, can you address some of the concerns Ed mentioned? What’s to keep these events’ quality high so that it doesn’t devolve into “some bush-league event with minimal equine health standards that requires subsidization”? Also, why do you think horse racing is in a position to expand into new territory if the stakes calendar is already full? What sort of data do you have that says horse racing will be viable here 20-30 years from now given generational attitudes?

  3. Max Power says:

    Listen we already have state sanctioned gambling in the form of the lottery. Why shouldn’t private companies be able to get in on the act?

  4. Will Durant says:

    Yeah because we all know that two ten-day sessions a year are going to send us off that precipice requiring “law enforcement and mental health professionals needed to deal with a possible epidemic of gambling addiction.”

    We don’t need this kind of hyperbole from the Baptists. On the scale of things 31 million is chump change anyway and not even worth the bureaucracy or more “agricultural” easements. Of course by battling legal casinos or sports betting the Baptists are again allying themselves with their opposites who are running the illegal operations. Kind of like they did with Sunday liquor sales with the retailers who didn’t want to open on Sundays for sales they were going to make anyway.

  5. Raleigh says:

    Will this be the panacea that Senator Beach says it is? Probably not.

    Will there be a boom for Gamblers Anonymous, Maybe some.

    Will the Animal Rights Terrorist have a field day? Probably.

    Will this cause a glut at the glue factory? Likely.

    (Most of those racing Grey Hounds were at one time just put down at the end of their racing days. Iโ€™m not sure if that is still the case. I know there are a few rescue organizations out there.)

    Still we have the lottery so why not Pari-mutuel Betting. While we are at it go ahead and legalize casinos. After all everyone else does it and we canโ€™t be left out of the revenue stream.

    Oh, and for full disclosure I am a Baptist.

    • saltycracker says:

      So I’d guess you’d oppose Beachs next probable fund raiser for education: the pole tax on strippers and legalized prostitution ? You must hate children. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Steve Crayne says:

      As Executive Director of the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition, we are not now or ever saying this is a panacea. We have taken great pains to make sure we present conserative numbers, under promise, over deliver. We have also appointed two of the best Equine Vets, both with strong UGA ties, as Director’s of Equine Welfare Policies. Because we start with a clean slate, we can learn from the many mistakes others have made. We are not just trying to bring a great sport to Georgia, we want set new standards for the entire industry.

      • saltycracker says:

        IMO horseracing is a good business. My problem becomes when the industry hires lobbyists to team up with politicians to negotiate their cut for public and political use. And when the politicians determine we want to pass this around to select individuals (scholarships) rather than the public good ( like our infrastructure)……will you say, ok, not my job, I just want to race horses and cut the best deal with my friendly politician.

        Can you get on the ballot by saying you will pay taxes like every other business in the state and might even hold still for a “sin” surcharge for the treasury, as only then would I vote yes ?

  6. gcp says:

    Legalize all gaming as its time our state sponsored gambling monopoly (aka the lottery) and its overpaid bureaucrats got a little competition. Of course it will not happen so you lotto execs don’t need to worry.

  7. MediateIt says:

    For those of you who are concerned about the “seedy” aspects of bringing horse-racing, pari-mutual betting and a casino to Georgia, I encourage you to visit Gulfstream Park in Hollywood, Florida. It has always been a good facility for horse racing, but once casino gambling was allowed on the property about ten years ago it exploded into a stunning mixed use development with high end stores, excellent restaurents, a complete renovation of the track and is now a huge revenue generator for the State of Florida. I know because I have family there and have visited many times over the years. I play poker, and every time I have to leave Georgia to play in a WPT or WSOP tournament I am adding to the stream of tax dollars leaving the state (although I do bring cash back). Critics need to quit using bad movies as a resource for their commentary and go see the real thing as it exists today.

    • Charlie says:

      Color me intrigued.

      I’m not against gambling, and have an affinity for blackjack tables when available.

      That said, I’ve also never been sold on casino gambling as any form of economic development. The case against them has usually been to look outside of any casino with Atlantic City as one of the most striking examples. The rap on casinos is that they suck all available money inside, and leave virtually nothing for surrounding businesses to thrive upon.

      You’re giving a model where local businesses and gambling and local businesses peacefully coexist. Can’t say I’ve seen this in places like Atlantic City (urban) or Philadelphia MS (rural). Have any other examples?

      • John Konop says:

        I agree with you about the negatives effects of gaming via economics….I am not sure the old model still applies with the growth of on-line gaming, Indian casinos…..It is not like the past….today access is not really an issue any more….if that is true are we not just letting dollars leave Georgia?

        • Will Durant says:

          I don’t see legalized gambling as a panacea to any government entity. But I also don’t see legalizing it to be any more damaging than the illegal activity that already occurs, quite the opposite actually. I’ve played poker with some captains of industry in this town and more than a few in government in the past, though, of course the statute of limitations have long since expired ๐Ÿ˜‰ When this type of activity is happening between consenting adults the only interest from the government should be to collect any taxes owed.

          While you seldom see poker games being busted up there are still other illegal gambling activities like the backroom video parlors and the like that taxpayers fund needless law enforcement and incarcerations when they could be receiving a piece of the action instead. Not only this, by criminalizing an activity that the general public accepts we diminish respect for the law by those participating and in many cases by those enforcing the law as well. I’ve seen parley cards available during football season my entire life and don’t recall hearing of anyone ever being busted for them. The numbers game or “The Bug” as it was known in Atlanta thrived before Zell Miller made it legal and it was only when someone was busted for other activities that you ever heard of its existence.

          Atlanta’s convention business needs a shot in the arm and a casino could enhance as many people want some sinning available with their conventions. On a smaller scale however just corner bookies and pub games bring in around $10 Billion a year to government coffers in England. I am reluctant on horse racing after seeing Birmingham’s failure but if someone is willing to take on the entire risk without any to the state then I don’t see any reason to keep it illegal in the state. I’m more interested in increasing Atlanta’s convention biz, reducing law enforcement requirements, and keeping revenue in Georgia.

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