Earlier this week, the state senators of Georgia defeated a constitutional amendment that would have permitted local voters to decide whether to make betting on horse races legal. Still, the legislators left the bigger package of legislation alive for a possible rescue in the eleventh hour but the move turned out unsuccessful, eventually.
The Georgia Senate voted 33 to 20 to back Senate Resolution 131, but that vote was not enough to fulfill the requirement for two-thirds support in order for a constitutional amendment to proceed further to the House. The measure saw both Democrats and Republicans vote for and against it, with the Senate finding multiple issues with the proposal. According to experts, Senate Resolution 131 did not fail because of some legislators’ bias, but rather because of the complexity of gambling in the state.
The Republican Senator Jeff Mullis said he had been hoping that the matter of horse race betting would have been allowed to go on the ballot, so he was very disappointed with his colleagues who prevented that from happening. Senator Mullis, still, managed to ensure reconsideration of the vote, which means that the proposed constitutional amendment was not shelved until the end of March 15th, which was the deadline for legislative measures to get approval from their original chamber in the Georgia General Assembly.
Georgian Lawmakers Not Ready to Make a Move Towards Liberalization of the Local Gambling Sector
On March 15th, the Georgian Senate also tried to pass another piece of legislation, called Senate Bill 212. Under the provisions of the bill, up to 5 horse racing tracks could have been established on the territory of the state. A large number of supporters of the measure argued that permitting the industry to seek further development would bring economic benefits to the state, breeders and local fans who are currently forced to bet on horse races elsewhere.
The senators, who voted in favor of the proposed measure, cited a study held by the Georgian Southern University, which showed that the horse racing sector’s net impact on the state economy could be worth $1.28 billion. The study also noted that the sector’s liberalization could result in 15,800 jobs over the next ten years or so, with the figure including the projected spinoffs from the thoroughbred breeding sector.
On the other hand, the opponents of the proposed piece of legislation explained there were also some moral grounds that made them uncomfortable with voting on the resolution. One of the major concerns shared by the bill’s critics was that horse racing could lead to the proliferation of other forms of gambling in the state. Some legislators believe there was a chance that the liberalization of the horse racing industry also pave the way for the entry of electronic gambling and slot machines in Georgia.
According to one senator, the liberalization of the sector would see many people suffer some financial losses because there must be losers in order for winners to appear.
Some lawmakers in Georgia usually make attempts to expand the local gambling sector every year but none of these efforts have been successful in the General Assembly since the state lottery was officially approved by local voters in 1992. The House has been less willing to give the green light to any gambling expansion efforts in the last few years but in January 2022, House Speaker David Ralston gave new hope to the proponents of the proposed gambling expansion.