Progress in Georgia Seen on Pari-Mutuels

No vote this year, but supporters of such wagering are attracting more support.

Though Georgia state leaders have squelched legislation bringing pari-mutuel wagering to voters in the Peach State for now, the issue’s lead lobbyist is not discouraged.

"Every year we get more support," said Ed Gadrix Jr., chairman of the equine law section of the State Bar of Georgia and founder of the Georgia Equine Education Project. "The senate is passing a resolution to support a study committee. I think this is a legitimate step. We have done statewide polling and think it will pass. We are going forward with that aspect of it. I fully suspect it will pass."

A Georgia House of Representatives committee tabled legislation March 21 that would have put a proposed constitutional amendment allowing pari-mutuel wagering before the voters in November. Even if the legislation had cleared the House committee, it still required a two-thirds supporting vote in both chambers before it could appear on a ballot.

In an election year, the obstacle was a bit too tall, according to Gadrix.

"There are varying reasons but some leaders would rather see it come up next year," he said.

Still, Gadrix is hopeful.

"We are not discouraged," he said, noting the issue has gained the support of several key leaders including the senate Republican majority leader Chip Rogers, the president pro tempore Sen. Tommie Williams, and the Lieutenant Gov. Casey Cagle.

The issue has also picked up grassroots support in Georgia. The legislation outlines everything from authorizing full-card simulcasts to creating a Georgia Racing Commission, and sets aside revenue for a scholarship fund in the state.

Gadrix said casino gambling is not, nor will it ever be, included in the pursuit of pari-mutuel wagering. He said introducing the possibility of legalized casino wagering would make any legislative attempt "dead in the water."

Georgia has had a state lottery since 1993. During fiscal year 2011, the lottery had gross sales of $3.598 billion. Net proceeds for the Lottery for Education Account were $846.1 million.