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Voters may get say on horse racing

State committee looks at issue

POSTED: November 30, 2012 12:33 a.m.
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Murphy

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If he were a gambling man, District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy would bet on a horse racing bill hitting the 2013 General Assembly.

But Murphy, chairman of the Study Committee on Horse Racing and a Republican from Cumming, said there will be no movement on any legislation until the final meeting next month.

During the committee’s first meeting Tuesday, state leadership heard from several supporters of a bill that would allow voters to decide if the state should allow wagering on horse races.

According to Murphy, the information presented Tuesday showed about 35 percent of the revenue would go toward Georgia government through taxes that could translate to more than $50 million annually.

Murphy said some of that money could go toward the HOPE scholarship program and possibly helping build much-needed infrastructure.

“Then it’s not going to cost the taxpayers one dime,” he said of Georgia’s dire need for road improvement funding. “Somebody paying … part of the taxes on a road, that would be great.”

Just one person spoke out against a referendum. According to Murphy, the opponent brought up information about horse tracks losing money.

Murphy said he asked the speaker to gather more information, but noted private investors wouldn’t likely support a business venture “if they think it’s going to be a failing proposition. That’s just not the way business usually works.”

Murphy hopes the next meeting will provide more insight to any potential cons of a referendum, because based on the information presented the pros appear to outweigh any negatives.

“We had several people testifying for it and they’re going on a survey … that was done in August 2012, so it’s a recent survey,” he said.

The survey showed about 72 percent of those polled supporting a referendum to allow betting on horse racing in the state.

To be clear, any legislation that comes from the committee would be only to allow horse racing in Georgia, not casinos — something opponents fear could be next if horse betting were to be legalized.

But Murphy said one would not lead to the other.

“If the constitutional amendment specifies horse racing only, it can’t open up to casinos. We’re not even going to go there. We’re not going to study casino gambling,” he said.

“We can say no to what we want to say no to and we can say yes to what we want to say yes to.”

 

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