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  • Writer's pictureSteven Crayne

Georgia poll: Overwhelming support for horse racing

72 percent favor giving Georgians a vote to allow race tracks that would spur equine industry, rural development

According to a recent poll, 66 percent of Georgians support allowing horse racing and 72 percent support letting people choose whether Georgia should allow horse racing. The survey also found that support for allowing horse racing crosses party lines with support from Republicans (63 percent), Democrats (70 percent) and independent voters (64 percent).

“The polling is clear: Georgia voters support growing our state’s equine industry,” said state Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta). “Voters overwhelmingly recognize that horse racing would create thousands of jobs, deliver tens of millions in new state and local tax revenues, and promote development for rural Georgia. I’m working to give Georgians what they want: A chance to decide this themselves.”

Beach is the sponsor of the Rural Georgia Jobs and Growth Act, which would create the Georgia Horse Racing Commission and allow for pari-mutuel wagering on horse races. The legislation would allow for three venues, create thousands of jobs and spur economic development with the creation of new small businesses.

In a polarized political environment, horse racing is a clear win with Republicans, Democrats and independent voters. A statewide survey of 600 likely voters found 72 percent of voters overall support giving the people the right to decide on horse racing, compared to just 25 percent opposed.

This includes:

  • 70 percent of Republicans

  • 73 percent of independent voters

  • 67 percent of white Democrats

  • 76 percent of African-Americans

  • 72 percent of suburban women

  • 69 percent of born‐again Christians.

“When Georgia got into the movie business, critics said the state could never make a dent in Hollywood’s stronghold, and now many of those same critics say Georgia can never compete with Kentucky in horse racing,” said Beach. “Today Georgia is the top state for feature film production, and the people clearly want to unleash the potential of our equine industry to keep Georgia dollars in Georgia and attract investment from other states to fund education and create new jobs.”

The Rural Georgia Jobs and Growth Act will generate as much as $550 million initial investment without state investment or other state or local subsidized incentives.

“I’m not surprised Georgia voters overwhelmingly back horse racing,” said Dean Reeves, president of the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition. “Georgia has the perfect climate for a 60-day racing season, and we know from experiences in other states that the equine industry will bring unprecedented investment to rural Georgia. As the state looks for new ways to generate revenues, horse racing will create a billion-dollar industry with tangible benefits for all Georgia families, especially those working in agribusiness and tourism.”

A 2018 study by The Lewis Group found that a single 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.

With passage of the legislation, Georgia communities could be considered to permanently host the Breeders’ Cup, the premier championship event of Thoroughbred racing. Recent economic studies estimated an economic impact of $60 million for the city selected to host the Breeders’ Cup.

The statewide survey was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies from Feb. 14‐17, 2019, among 600 likely voters, including 300 interviews with cell phone respondents. The survey has a margin of error of +4.0 percent in 95 out of 100 cases.

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