ATLANTA, December 4, 2012 — Gambling on horse racing would be allowed in Georgia should state lawmakers approve a measure during the upcoming legislative session and voters agree to a constitutional amendment.
State Rep. Harry Geisinger, R-Roswell, filed House Resolution 1 and House Bill 4. One asks for voters to decide a proposed constitutional amendment; the other provides details for how gambling might function in Georgia.
In addition to creating jobs, proponents of such a bill say revenues from taxes on gambling could raise money for the HOPE Scholarship and help fill a projected revenue shortfall. The HOPE Scholarship, funded by proceeds from the state’s lottery, provides Georgia students with scholarships to attend in-state schools.
“It’s dollars that happen at the track. It’s dollars that happen to tourism if you include hotels and restaurants. It’s sales tax dollars, it’s employment tax dollars. And the numbers are big, big, big, big,” WSB-TV quoted the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition’s Hal Berry as saying
However, the measure has been slow out of the gates as many state lawmakers — including Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican — have expressed their opposition to an expansion of gambling in the state. Deal is keeping his exact position on the push close to the vest.
“We don’t comment on pending legislation unless it’s part of the governor’s agenda,” a spokesman for Deal told The Washington Times Communities last week in response to an inquiry on the governor’s position.
But, Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, said Tuesday the questions should be put to voters. Voters seem to agree; a February poll from Landmark Communications that found 72 percent of Georgians support a referendum on the question while just 22 percent are opposed.
Geisinger filed the bills on the first day state lawmakers could file proposed legislation in advance of the 2013 legislative session, which convenes in January. He introduced similar legislation in 2011 and 2010, but lawmakers have not yet put the issue to voters.
However, in April 2011, the state House approved a measure creating the House Study Committee on the Horse Racing Industry.
Gambling on horse racing is legal in more than 30 states and is responsible for a more than $35 billion economic impact, proponents say.
A separate push in the state to expand the state lottery’s offerings to include video lottery terminals (VLTs) has garnered some support in recent years, but not enough to bring it to fruition. Any additional proceeds from the terminals would go toward the HOPE Scholarship.
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