On-going efforts to get pari-mutuel wagering legalized in Georgia now include the results of an economic impact study showing that one racetrack could generate $1.2 billion worth of jobs, taxes, new revenue, and business development.
State Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) said he would present the proposal to the House Rural Development Council and work with state Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) to introduce legislation in the 2019 legislative session that would allow for three venues in different parts of the state.
"A horse racing facility would create thousands of jobs, deliver tens of millions in new state and local tax dollars and bring new revenues and business development to rural Georgia through its equine industry," Harrell said. "Georgia is one of only six states that have no gaming outside of its lottery, and I believe a horse racing would bring together different strengths our state has in tourism and agriculture.
"As legislators we're constantly looking for new ways to fund the demand for HOPE scholarships, which covers less and less of tuition costs, and horse racing allows us to do it in a way that fits well with what Georgia has to offer," Harrell continued. The HOPE scholarship provides Georgia residents financial assistance in attending any of more than 80 eligible public, private, and technical colleges and universities.
The economic impact study conducted by The Lewis Group based its assumptions on a horse racing facility in suburban Atlanta that included a 300-room hotel, a racetrack, live table games and slot machines, an array of dining and lounge venues, and a state of the art entertainment center. The report found the horse racing facility would:
• Create a $525 million investment and 4,000 jobs directly tied to construction.
• When completed, a racino would employ more than 2,225 people, grow the state's gross domestic product by $670 million in the first year and $3.4 billion over the first five years,
• Generate $210 million in state and local taxes in first year and $1.1 billion over five years.
• Boost rural development by injecting new revenues into purses and breeding programs. New horse industry-related jobs are estimated at 1,229 with $53 million in direct and indirect labor income. The study notes that 91% of the economic value from the horse industry affects rural communities and 85% of Georgia counties participate in the horse industry.
"This report gives lawmakers a clear vision of what a horse racing facility would contribute to Georgia," Beach said. "We'll work to pass legislation that enables a horse racing track in Georgia that is one of the nicest in the world."
The chairman of the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition said his group is committed to building world-class facilities that will benefit the state and serve as an asset to their local communities.
"Allowing for horse racing will stimulate Georgia's equine industry, which is an important part of the agricultural sector but currently isn't growing," said Dean Reeves, president of the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition. "We know from experiences in other states that these facilities lead to new jobs and growth in the equine industry as well as the profitable preservation of undeveloped rural lands. Our industry wants to be a part of a solution that gives rural Georgia an economic boost while also providing for the pressing revenue needs of the state as a whole."