Featured in this article:
  • Georgia bill would legalize pari-mutuel horse racing.
  • Currently, lottery is only regulated form of gambling in Georgia.
  • Comprehensive state gambling expansion has failed in the past.

3 Minute Read

Georgia pari-mutuel horse racing may become a reality.

State lawmakers in Atlanta began discussion of a bill that would legalize and regulate Georgia horse racing. Currently, Georgia’s only legal gambling option is the state lottery.

Debate in front of the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities is the first step towards allowing pari-mutuel betting on horse races. Because of Georgia’s constitution, any gambling expansion, including horse racing, requires approval from voters.

Why Is There No Georgia Horse Racing Currently?

Despite its recent demographic and political changes, Georgia is still a deeply conservative southern state at heart. Its gambling laws, which have not been updated in decades, indicate it is a holdout from betting changes happening elsewhere.

For years, some politicians have attempted to modernize the state’s stance on legal gambling. A promising push towards regulated sports betting failed last year, mainly due to unrelated politician posturing. Any expansion of Georgia’s gambling laws requires bipartisan cooperation because a section of republican lawmakers is opposed to gaming on principle.

But working together is challenging for lawmakers. Some believe they are more likely to succeed by raising each part of gambling reform separately. Instead of one comprehensive push that would bring the state casinos, sportsbooks, video lottery terminals, and horse racing, they may have more luck breaking each up into an individual bill.

Other comprehensive gambling expansion bills have failed to go anywhere in the past, so this strategy may be correct. In 2022, the first of the separate bills to be debated involves allowing Georgia horse racing.

Study Shows Promise for Horse Racing Job Creation

Under Senate Bill 30, the “Rural Georgia Jobs and Growth Act,” Georgia would allow up to three horse racing tracks. One would be in metro Atlanta, while the other two locations are still unclear. Each track could offer up to 60 race-days per year, meaning the state would have 180 track days of pari-mutuel racing each year.

Historical Horse Racing Machines

Historical Horse Racing machines, like the one seen here, look a lot like slot machines. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke, File)

However, it is not the races themselves that supporters believe most vital to the scheme’s success. Rather, it is the thoroughbred breeding industry that has the most promise. A Georgia South University study indicated that, within the first decade, Georgia horse racing would create almost 16,000 jobs.

State Senator Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro), indicated “the majority of these jobs would be agricultural.” This argument may be aimed at overcoming rural resistance to expanded gambling. However, in addition to live horse racing, historical horse racing machines would be authorized as well. These machines have a lot of similarities to slots and would be a significant expansion of Georgia’s gaming landscape.

Lawmakers on the Senate committee are still hearing testimony about the benefits of horse racing. If the measure were to receive approval from both the state House and Senate, it would move on to the November 2022 ballot.

Dave Consolazio

Dave Consolazio has been passionate about writing and sports journalism since his high school years. He has a degree in Broadcast Journalism from USC where he worked with the school's radio and television stations. His work has been featured in SportsbookReview, Sports Illustrated and SB Nation. Dave's experience ranges across multiple fields in the gambling industry. You can find his sports, casino, and poker articles in GambleOnline.co.

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