Georgia Horse Racing Bill Corralled In State Senate

Written By Derek Helling on March 22, 2022 - Last Updated on May 10, 2022
State Senate Doesn't Vote For Georgia Horse Racing Bill

And, they aren’t off! With the recent failure of a Georgia horse racing bill, the hypothetical they (as in horses) will stay in the figurative gates for the foreseeable future as far as actually taking to a track in the Peach State goes.

A proposal that would have put the question to the state’s voters this fall failed to gain the necessary support in the GA Senate. While that makes gambling expansion in the state in the near future a long shot, it isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility just yet.

Georgia horse racing bill can’t clear high bar

According to Jeff Amy of the Associated Press, the bill got support in the state Senate, just not enough. In Georgia, attempts to amend the state’s constitution have an arduous track.

Both chambers of the state’s legislature must approve amendment proposals by a 2/3 vote. This amendment proposal failed to reach that threshold, as the votes fell 33-20 in favor.

“I am disappointed in my colleagues,” said GA Sen. Jeff Mullis, who sponsored the amendment proposal.

“I was really hoping you would let this go to the ballot. That’s all this does is send it to the ballot.”

According to Josh Hicks of the Valdosta Daily Times, dissent for the resolution fell along the typical lines. Opponents oppose gambling expansion on moral grounds.

“We’ve all met people who could not handle gambling, it’s a health issue,” said GA Sen. Marty Harbin.

“There’s a high suicide rate that goes along with it, and in fact, gambling addiction is the most common impulse control disorder worldwide. Gambling is a poor personal investment and economic decision. … Gambling is not beneficial to the families of Georgia because those that cannot control it, money goes from the table, money goes from paying houses and insurance and the things that are there.”

Had both chambers approved the proposed amendment, voters in Georgia would have had the chance to decide whether they wanted to:

  • Allow for up to five betting and racetrack licenses
  • Legalize horse racing in the state
  • Legalize in-person pari-mutuel wagering on horse races

An accompanying bill would have created a regulatory commission for the activity. The framework wouldn’t have allowed for any other type of gaming in this expansion, including online wagering on horse races.

The failure of this bill to advance will signal that Georgia gambling expansion might not happen this year. There is still one lifeline left to make 2022 peachy-keen for the gambling industry in Georgia, though.

Remember that Senate sports betting bill in Georgia?

Last year, the GA Senate passed a bill and resolution, SB 142 and SR 135, that would add sports betting to the list of “games” the Georgia Lottery can offer to players. They never saw a vote in the GA House of Representatives in 2o21.

That isn’t all bad, though. Georgia runs a two-year legislative calendar. As long as bills are approved by their body of origin by a deadline, they can carry over to the following year. Thus, SB 142 and SR 135 are still alive in the GA House.

The resolution similarly puts the question to voters this fall over whether to allow the lottery to expand to regulate online sports betting. The bill acts as the enabling legislation should voters approve that change.

Currently, the pair of proposals are in the GA House Economic Development & Tourism Committee. That committee meets next on Tuesday, but neither bill is on the agenda.

If this pair of bills don’t see a vote in the House again this year or fails to get the necessary super-majority, all gambling expansion attempts for the current term will truly end in failure.

Photo by Matt Slocum / Associated Press
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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