Georgia Legislators Propose Pari-Mutuel Amendment

Two-thirds majority required to put issue to the voters.

February 28, 2012

Generic Racing Photo

A bipartisan group of legislators in the Georgia State Senate on February 22 proposed a constitutional amendment to legalize wagering on horse races in the Peach State.

State Resolution 1025 would allow a public vote on amending the state constitution to allow pari-mutuel wagering and would also allow betting on horse racing at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, where the equestrian games were held during the 1996 Olympics.

The resolution requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature to pass. With it, legislators can vote to put the measure on the ballot without the signature of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who opposes any efforts to expand gambling in the state. Georgia already has a state lottery.

“This gives us an opportunity to create another revenue stream for education,” said Sen. Ron Ramsey (D-Decatur), who sponsored the amendment. “I know this is going to be an uphill endeavor. If it works, great – we can go along and expand it. If it doesn't, at least we tried.”

Supporters say legalized gambling would bring in new revenue for popular programs such as Georgia's HOPE college scholarship program and pre-K classes without raising taxes.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the move comes as hopes of passage on the issue this year have faded. A similar proposal stalled in the state house of representatives in this year's session, where it languished in committee at the approach of the March 7 deadline for most bills to pass from one chamber to the other.

Rep. Harry Geisinger (R-Roswell) sponsored the horse racing amendment, HR 186, in the state house of representatives. In November, Geisinger brought in Breeders' Cup board member and former chairman Bill Farish Jr. and Nick Nicholson, president and chief executive officer of Kentucky's Keeneland Association to meet with the governor and talk about potential economic benefits for Georgia.