ATLANTA — Two state legislators will introduce bills in 2019 that would allow for development of three horse racing venues, create thousands of jobs, aid rural development and pump money into the state’s HOPE scholarship program, according to promoters.
One horse racing facility in Georgia would have an economic impact of more than $1.2 billion a year while bolstering the agricultural and tourism industries and providing new revenues for health care, education and rural development programs, according to an economic study commissioned by the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition.
The issue was last raised during the 2017 general session but got a lukewarm reception. Organizers then stepped back and commissioned a feasibility report.
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.”
Harrell added that the venues would also help fund the state’s HOPE scholarship.
“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,” he said.
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 race track, 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;
— Employ more than 2,225 people, grow state GDP by $640 million and have a $1.2 billion economic impact in its first year of operating, with each metric growing over time;
— Generate $210 million in state and local taxes in its first year and $1.1 billion over five years;
— Boost rural development by injecting new revenues into purses and breeding programs – 91 percent of the industry’s agribusiness impacts are in rural communities and affect 85 percent of Georgia counties.
Beach said the legislation would benefit not only rural communities but all Georgia taxpayers.
“This report gives lawmakers a clear vision of what a horse racing facility would contribute to Georgia,” the lawmaker 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.”