Sen. Brandon Beach (Photo: Georgia State Senate)

Legislation filed in the Georgia State Senate would regulate pari-mutuel horse racing in the state for a handful of licensed equestrian centers approved by a newly-created Commission.

Senate Bill 45 would create the Georgia Horse Racing Commission, which would report to the General Assembly, and allow for wagering on horse races. Sponsored by Senators Brandon Beach, Burt Jones, Jeff Mullis, Ed Harbison, Emanuel Jones, and Freddie Powell Sims, the bill has been assigned to the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee. It is accompanied by a Constitutional Amendment – SR 84 – which means it would have be approved by voters.

The legislation, which has the support of Republicans and Democrats, reads that the wagering from horse racing would “support the state’s agricultural, tourism, and convention businesses, and enhance state revenues.”

Horse racing facilities and licenses for operation would not be allowed unless the county where the track is to be located has voted to approve the statewide constitutional  amendment referendum to allow for pari-mutuel wagering. So, if the amendment passes on the Georgia ballot but the county did not approve it as a majority, that county is not eligible for the investment of the facility. The exception is if it is approved by a local referendum.

Senate Bill 45, named the “Rural Georgia Jobs and Growth Act,” would do the following:

  • Offers 30 separate definitions related to horse racing to ensure specific legal terms related to the regulation
  • Gives the Georgia Horse Racing Commission full legal authority over practice of pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing, but prohibits the use of  coin operated amusement machines
    • Commission members would serve 4-year terms with no compensation outside of expenses
    • Commission members must include ‘prominent persons in their businesses or professions’ and include 1 Commissioner with a horse in The Jockey Club, 1 Commissioner with a 10-year thoroughbred owner and horse owner license, 1 Commissioner with experience financing horses or horse racing, and 1 Commissioner with a United States Trotting Association standardbred license
    • Commission members cannot have a conflict of interest in the contracts forthcoming
    • Commissioners will appoint an executive who will be the Commissioner
    • The Commission can enter into contracts, take on debt, issue loans, issue citations, conduct investigations, and a number of other privileges
  • Impose a 60-day per year, per facility operation minimum on license holders who host horse racing events
  • Requires that the Commission approve any contract between the licensed facility and a horseman’s group no less than 90 days before the event
  • Provides for the position of ‘Stewards’ who oversee the racing at the events and enforce the Commission’s rules
  • Would allow Georgians to partake in pari-mutuel wagering on horse races at licensed facilities if they’re over the age of 21
  • Caps the licenses for the facilities at 3 in the entire state and must:
    • Provide financial information and information about its principal shareholders and officers,
    • Pay upwards of a $500,000 nonrefundable fee
    • Must be within 50 miles of an international airport with at least 5 runways
    • Must include a minimum investment of $250 million per equestrian facility
    • Applications won’t be awarded to any facility unless the applicant, the majority of the shareholders, or the majority of the owners have a “history of successful history operating a horse track.”
  • If a license is awarded to a facility, the applicant must pay $50 million to the Commission within 10 days or face revocation.
  • The first license is good for 10 years and a renewal is $250,000.
  • Employees of the Commission, spouses, and immediately family members are barred from having interest in a facility and cannot participate in the ownership of a horse. They’re also barred from having interest in a prize for a race.
  • Requires a permit for all things related to horse racing, including horse owner, trainer, jockey, driver, exercise rider, starter, groom, stable foreman, valet, veterinarian, agent,  pari-mutuel employee, and concessionaire.
  • 20% of the monthly earnings must be paid to the state Commission
  • Prohibits local governments from further imposing taxes on the practice
  • Outlines dozens of prohibitions in terms of the integrity of horse racing practices, including falsifying information, rigging races, and the punishments of such.

SB 45 also requires a portion of the pari-mutuel pools wagering money, at a cap of 5%, earned be set aside for:

  • education, health care needs, and rural development
  • breeding incentives from the Georgia Breeders Funds
  • state resources for the treatment of problem pari-mutuel wagering issues
  • Racing horse retirement

If passed, the Constitutional Amendment would appear on the ballot as follows:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize pari-mutuel betting on horse racing in the State of Georgia?”

Senator Frank Ginn is chairman of the Senate committee to which SB 45 has been assigned. You can contact him by email at frank.ginn@senate.ga.gov. 3 of the bill sponsors sit on this committee.

The other members of the committee and sponsors are as follows:

brandon.beach@senate.ga.gov
burt.jones@senate.ga.gov
jeff.mullis@senate.ga.gov
ed.harbison@senate.ga.gov
emanuel.jones@senate.ga.gov
freddie.sims@senate.ga.gov
matt.brass@senate.ga.gov
lee.anderson@senate.ga.gov
mike.dugan@senate.ga.gov
donzella.james@senate.ga.gov
harold.jones@senate.ga.gov
horacena.tate@senate.ga.gov
blake.tillery@senate.ga.gov
nikema.williams@senate.ga.gov

You can read the 37-page bill here. Read the Constitutional Amendment here

SB 45_2019
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