Georgia Gambling Supporters Set Sights on 2019

Racing horses

Gambling supporters in Georgia are setting their sights on 2019 in the hopes of seeing the state legalize casino gambling and pari-mutuel betting. The General Assembly session is almost over, with current gambling legislation failing to advance.

Presently, the groundwork is being laid by supporters, before the current session is over, to hopefully see gambling options considered in 2019. A study was released this week by the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition that showed a casino and racetrack combo in suburban Atlanta would be able to generate as much as $1.2b (£0.84bn) or more a year.

The study involved a facility with casino and racing options, as well as a 300-room hotel plus dining and lounge areas. An entertainment center was also included.

Representative Brett Harrell plans on presenting this facility proposal to the House Rural Development Council once the current legislative sessions ends next week. Harrell will be working with Senator Brandon Beach to propose legislation in for the 2019 session to see three gaming venues added to various parts of Georgia.

According to Bizjournals.com, Harrell said: “A horse racing facility would create thousands of jobs, deliver tens of millions in new state and local tax dollars and bring new revenues and business development to rural Georgia through its equine industry.

“Georgia is one of only six states that have no gaming outside of its lottery, and I believe horse racing would bring together different strengths our state has in tourism and agriculture.”

Repeated efforts

Supporters of casino gaming and horse racing in Georgia have tried multiple times to see such gaming options considered in the state. Efforts have been made to move an amendment that would legalize gambling through the General Assembly to then be placed on the ballot. Such efforts have continued to fail.

Plans for gaming expansion have seen projects proposed involving destination resorts. Proposed projects even pitched the idea of using revenues from casino gaming for the Hope scholarship program of the state. The destination resorts would also be a way to increase tourism.

Even with the idea that such projects could create more funds for the state’s scholarship program as well as increase tourism, any legislation involving gambling in the state has failed to advance. Governor Nathan Deal has been strongly opposed to gambling along with conservatives within the General Assembly.

One proposal would have seen a gaming facility added to the Atlanta area, and business leaders in the region are none too happy about any such project. Additional proposals have included adding gaming venues outside the metro area.

Potential job creation

The Lewis Group put together the report on the potential for casino and horse racing in the state, revealing that an investment of $525m in such a venue would bring more than 4,000 jobs in the construction field. An additional 2,275 employment positions would be created within the facility once completed.

As far as state and local taxes are concerned, the report showed that as much as $210m (£148m) would be generated. Senator Beach commented on the report by stating: “This report gives lawmakers a clear vision of what a horse racing facility would contribute to Georgia. We’ll work to pass legislation that enables a horse racing track in Georgia that is one of the nicest in the world.”

For now, casino gambling legislation is not being considered in the state. It seems the focus of lawmakers currently is advancing measures that would expand the public transportation options in metro Atlanta. Legislation is also being discussed that would stop drivers from using smartphones while in traffic.

Such transit legislation was able to move forward this week in the Senate and House, while legislation involving casino gambling and other topics, failed to advance.