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Senate Lawmakers Stuck On Whether To Legalize Casinos, Horse Racing

A Georgia State Senate Study Committee has been studying whether to put forward a Constitutional Amendment to authorize a referendum on sports betting, casino gambling and/or horse racing.
A Georgia State Senate Study Committee has been studying whether to put forward a Constitutional Amendment to authorize a referendum on sports betting, casino gambling and/or horse racing.
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A Georgia State Senate Study Committee could not agree on what legislation to recommend the General Assembly consider concerning new gambling options in Georgia. The committee has been studying whether to put forward a constitutional amendment to authorize a referendum on sports betting, casino gambling and/or horse racing.

According to state Sen. Brandon Beach, a Republican who led the committee and has advocated for horse racing for years, said there’s been a split between sports betting and casino gambling and horse racing.

“I think sports betting is gaining a lot of momentum, but as you’ve heard me say, sports betting doesn’t create a lot of jobs. Eighty to 85 percent of it is done on a mobile app,” he said. “I’ve been very consistent for the last six years since I’ve been talking about horse racing and casino gaming: it’s about jobs and economic development.”

Beach said the committee couldn’t agree about how the different forms of gambling should be treated in any future legislation: “Do we separate them all out and ask three separate questions or ask one question, all three in one question? And we couldn’t get a consensus on that, so we’ll continue to work on that.”

State Sen. Ed Harbison, a Democrat who has advocated for casino gambling, said some on the panel were concerned about the two-thirds needed to pass a constitutional amendment through both chambers of the General Assembly. Plus, he said, some are getting pushback from constituents who disagree with gambling “from a religious perspective.”

Harbison declined to hazard a guess on whether a proposal might come together for next year: “It might and it might not, but I think it requires a lot of thought and a lot of tweaking so they can get it to something both chambers will enjoy and pass,” he said.

Beach said he thinks he will have an idea of where the issue could go in the first week of the session, which begins Jan. 13.

A similar study committee in the Georgia House has also been considering gambling expansion options.