Georgia Lawmakers Hope to Bring Casinos, Horse Tracks to Peach State 

Posted on: February 1, 2021, 03:19h. 

Last updated on: February 3, 2021, 02:47h.

Two Georgia lawmakers have introduced legislation to allow commercial casinos and horse tracks in the Peach State. 

Brandon Beach
Georgia Sen. Brandon Beach carries a document at the Capitol in Atlanta. Beach has introduced legislation to allow horse tracks in the state. (Image: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Sen. Brandon Beach (R) filed a measure last week that would set up a Georgia Horse Racing Commission. Under Senate Bill 30, the commission could license up to three racetracks in Georgia.

Also last week, Rep. Ron Stephens (R) introduced a resolution to ask Georgia voters during the next election whether they want casinos in the state. That measure is House Resolution 30.

A constitutional amendment is required before casinos or horse tracks could begin operating in Georgia, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Constitutional amendments are difficult to achieve. They require a two-thirds vote in both legislative chambers and a majority vote in a public election.

In previous years, lawmakers at the Capitol in Atlanta have been unsuccessful in passing bills to expand gambling.

Opponents have argued that gambling leads to higher crime rates and thrusts families into economic hardship when money losses mount. 

Sports Betting Bill

Earlier this year, Stephens introduced House Bill 86 to allow online sports betting in the state. Stephens is chairman of the House Tourism and Economic Development Committee. 

Stephens has said sports betting does not require a constitutional amendment. This means the bill only would need a majority vote in each legislative chamber before going to the governor.

Under his bill, sports wagering would be managed by the Georgia Lottery, with proceeds benefitting the HOPE scholarship fund. The lottery was established in Georgia in 1992.

If approved, HB86 in its current form would require the companies providing sports betting services to pay a 16 percent tax on revenue.

The bill’s proponents say sport betting creates jobs and can improve education in the state by pumping money into the HOPE scholarship fund.  

“We’re back at trying to backfill the HOPE scholarship and pre-k, and the destination resorts, along with the tourism piece, is the way to do it,” Stephens told the newspaper.

The capital city’s four professional sports teams have expressed support for online sport wagering. These are the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks, and Atlanta United.

Southern States Seek Gaming Growth

In pushing sport betting legislation, Stephens has said more than $1 billion already is being spent on illegal sports betting in the state. 

In addition, mobile sports betting became legal in Tennessee in November for anyone betting within the Volunteer State. Chattanooga, a southeastern Tennessee city on the Georgia border, is only two hours from Atlanta. 

Lawmakers in other Southern states are looking at allowing online sports betting. These include Texas and Mississippi. 

In Louisiana, legislators during the next session in April will decide whether to allow mobile sports betting or restrict it to in-person wagers placed at sportsbooks inside casinos. During the November election, voters in a majority of Louisiana parishes approved sports betting within their parish. With taxation and other issues unresolved, sports betting is not expected to be legal in Louisiana until at least 2022.