Senate committee studies horse race betting in Georgia - Dallas News |

Senate committee studies horse race betting in Georgia

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Advocates hope to put a referendum before Georgia voters asking for approval to allow betting on horse racing in the state.  

 A state Senate committee studying the issue is to conduct a second and final hearing later this week.

"It will be an opportunity for the state to…have some revenue if the people want it. You know, and of course if they don't, then that's that. That is who we work for," said state Sen. Jack Murphy (R-Cumming), the panel's chairman.

A referendum would require two-thirds majority approval in the Senate and House before it could go on the ballot for voters in 2014.

State House Speaker David Ralston and others have expressed concern that the introduction of horse racing here could lead to calls for casino gambling.

Eric Cochling, a leader of the Georgia Family Council, said in a statement, "Horse racing is a struggling industry across the US and Canada except where it is paired with casino-style gambling; to invite it into our state would be to invite other, more harmful forms of gambling that are needed to support it."

Supporters say they do not want casino gambling and point to polls showing substantial public support in the state for pari-mutuel wagering.

Backer say one study shows the horse racing industry could generate at least $50 million in revenue for the state.

Opponents say they are concerned that betting on horse racing could take money away from the Georgia Lottery and, as a result, the HOPE scholarship.

The Senate committee studying the issue meets Thursday afternoon at the Georgia Capitol.

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