A constitutional amendment that would allow Georgia voters to decide on legalizing horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering in their cities was assigned by Speaker of the House David Ralston to the Regulated Industries Committee during the week of Feb. 7.
Ed Gadrix, president and executive director of the Georgia Equine Education Project, said the committee assignment was what he was hoping for and would help the resolution's chances of moving on to the full House and Senate for a vote.
“We’ve spent a considerable amount of time educating the members of that committee about horse racing so they’re more knowledgeable about the issue itself,” said Gadrix of the resolution, which failed to move beyond the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee in 2010. “The chairman (of the Regulated Industries Committee) has some people in his district that are knowledgeable horsemen, and we’ve laid the foundation there for them.”
The bill is now in the hands of the chairman David Shafer, who will decide when and if the bill will have a hearing during Georgia’s current legislative session.
“We have been in touch with the leadership in the Senate, and if we can get it out of committee and the House, we think we have the most influential leadership in the Senate that will carry over,” said Gadrix.
Robert Meier, who serves as racing secretary on the interim board of the Georgia Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’ Association, wasn’t as optimistic as Gadrix about the resolution’s chances, however.
“The House and Senate Representatives are just not prepared to pass it,” he said. “They still have to go home and explain something they can’t explain; they don’t understand it. It’s a push button ‘no’ for most of them anyway.
“But (the issue) is getting legs...one big plus is when the legislature is over this year, it’s a non-election cycle, which is a wonderful time to get together with these guys and bring them to states that are doing well (with racing) like Indiana, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania, or bring the people from those states to them and let them see why, how, and if it would work here. I expect a lot of momentum between this session and the next session.
“(The racing resolution) is visual, these guys are making a lot of noise, and they’re getting blurbs on TV and in the newspaper," Meier continued. "A lot of people are inquiring the status on it…(the Georgia Equine Education Project) is doing a good job at generating interest, but I don’t know how much interest they’re generating in non-horse people. If nothing else, they’re mobilizing the horse people, which can’t be bad.”
Meier added that before passing racing legislation, senators from around Georgia need to know exactly what kind of economic impact it could have for their individual districts. “Most of the representatives and senators see this as a bill that would be good for Atlanta, but I would want to see how it would affect my district—the land, crops, etc.,” he said. “I don’t think enough has been done to honestly answer those questions. You can say (racing) will help, but how many jobs it will create, I don’t know.”