Supporters of pari-mutuel wagering in Georgia have decided to partner with casino operators to push for a ballot measure to approve new gaming facilities in the state. The Georgia Horse Racing Coalition has been looking to get pari-mutuel wagering approved for several years now.
For much of this time, the industry has been highlighting ties between racing industry and agriculture in a bid to emphasize the associated benefits from growth in breeding and training facilities that’s likely to occur with introduction of wagering services. However as the industry now seeks to make a case for putting the question to ballot in 2018, it has moved away from this approach. The current year’s legislative session will commence this week and will decide on approving up to five casinos as well as a racino.
In a statement Steven Crane, executive director of the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition said,
It is our feeling now that horse racing on its own does not offer enough tax revenue to move the needle. State leaders need money to shore up the Hope scholarship and other areas of education. If they adopt resort-style gaming, then you have the revenue and there is something for everyone. There is an uptick across the state
The Hope scholarship is a lottery-funded program that offers 100 percent coverage of tuition at public colleges and universities for qualifying students based on their academic achievements. According to a recent media report, the support offered by the program is now down to 70 cent of tuition except for the top-most scoring candidates.
The legislative bill proposing expansion in gaming beyond a state-backed lottery requires a constitutional amendment and therefore needs voters’ support through a ballot measure. Once the amendment is approved, interested local governments must gain approval from the residents of an area seeking to host a casino. Once this is also achieved, cities can apply for one of the six licenses up for grabs.
The broad provisions state that a large casino will come up within 25 miles of the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta having a minimum investment of $1 billion. This will be the primary license. Four secondary licenses are also proposed for smaller facilities placed beyond 50 miles of the primary casino having minimum investment of $250 million. It also allows for one horse track license with a minimum investment of $150 million.
According to Crane a separate bill will deal with operational details such as the number of licenses, the casino sites and minimum investment limits.