Courtesy Appen Newspapers
November 04, 2013
Members of the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition are working to change that and bring the excitement and financial boost of horse racing to the greater Atlanta area.
Horse racing has long been a tradition in Georgia, but the concept of pari-mutuel wagering, or betting on horse racing, is not legal in the state – making the sport of horse racing unprofitable.
Jack Damico, of Cumming, who is on the racing coalition's board of directors, sees the value of wagering in the horse racing industry.
"It could mean so much for the state through jobs, tax revenue and tourism," Damico said. "Georgia State University recently completed an economic study that indicated horse racing in Georgia could provide $50 million in tax revenue and would bring more than 15,000 new jobs to the state."
The GSU study says Kentucky leads the pack at $66 million in state tax revenues.
Damico added that the coalition is trying to educate state leaders and voters on all the good that the thoroughbred initiative could bring, and are working to ultimately pass a constitutional amendment legalizing horse wagering to pave the way for horse racing in Georgia.
House Bill 4, to be voted in the 2013-2014 regular session, would provide for pari-mutuel wagering in the state and is being sponsored by North Fulton County's state Reps. Lynne Riley and Harry Geisinger.
Geisinger said once the bill passes, the governor will appoint a racing commission.
"This will bring thousands of jobs and a tremendous amount of money – many millions of dollars," Geisinger said. "It's an opportunity for us."
He added that the money used to build the track won't be with tax dollars, but instead will be privately funded.
And with that money, Damico said the coalition hopes to build "one spectacular boutique race track" in the greater Atlanta area.
The track would host a Georgia Derby for colts and a Georgia Oaks for fillies each year, which Damico said would be a wonderful tourist attraction.
"Our mission is to bring a world-class, multipurpose racing facility to the area. Georgia is such a natural fit with the climate and all the agricultural resources," Damico said.
Additionally, Damico said the race track would not have a casino attached to it because the coalition believes the track could make it on its own.
"It's my passion to see our own horses race in our own state," Damico said. "The coalition thinks the thoroughbred initiative would be good for Georgia, and we'd like to see it happen."
For more information on the coalition, visit www.gahorseracing.org or find them on Facebook.
Read the GSU report on horse racing.