Georgians Are Divided Over Horse Racing

While some officials believe a resolution will be passed, others oppose the idea.

While some horse racing officials in Georgia believe a resolution that would constitutionally allow horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering has a good chance of being approved during the current legislative session, others feel the proposal lacks the organization and preparation to move forward.

Ed Gadrix, who monitors legislative matters for the Georgia Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, said in light of the state’s demographics, he feels positive about the resolution, which was unveiled by Rep. Henry Geisinger Jan. 26.

Geisinger, a Republican, is currently gathering co-sponsors for the resolution. It would need to be passed with a two-thirds vote in the House and the Senate, and would then need to be approval by Georgia voters at the ballot box in November.

“I feel positive it will go to the (House) floor for a vote, and then get carried over into the Senate,” Gadrix said. “We have some very influential Senators who support it.”

While Gadrix said he has received several e-mails from Georgia residents in support of the proposal, others are opposed to it for reasons he called “inexperienced.”

With that in mind, Gadrix has created an organization called the Georgia Equine Education Project, which will be modeled after KEEP in Kentucky. KEEP’s continuing mission is to “increase awareness of the benefits of Kentucky's horse economy and to promote jobs and economic opportunities for Kentuckians through the horse industry.”

“We need to educate the people in Georgia about their various concerns (about horse racing),” said Gadrix. “It’s a whole new industry for Georgia, and the experience level will just come with time.”

Bob Meier, who is on the board of the GTOBA and also serves as its racing secretary and acting president, has a much different view of the proposal’s chances.

“The mood for racing in Georgia is pretty good, but (passing a constitutional resolution) takes organization,” he said. “It’s nice to have our toe in the water and have a feel for what’s going on, but to be realistic, it’s not going to happen in this session.

“They say (racing and pari-mutuel wagering) will create 10,000-15,000 jobs, but they’re not saying how, there aren’t any economic impact studies (to back it up), and there’s been no polling (for public opinion). (The resolution) doesn’t have legs.”

Meier said other problems he has with the resolution in its current form is the lack of indication as to where a racetrack would be located, whether it would be built with public or private funds, and what the takeout or tax breaks would be.

A plan is currently underway to create a different resolution, Meier said, but he could not disclose any details.

“We’re going to get the proper backing behind the bill, the correct organizations, headcount, and funding,” he said. “There are some very important people seriously looking at it. I can’t say too much more than that.”