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Georgia Senate rejects allowing vote on horse race betting

March 16, 2022 GMT
Republican Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga takes off a riding helmet to present SR131, which would allow a state referendum on horse racing, during Crossover Day in the Georgia General Assembly In Atlanta on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. It failed to pass, but may be reconsidered if Mullis can get additional votes. Bills and resolutions need passage in either the House or the Senate by Crossover Day to be considered by the other chamber for passage this year. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Republican Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga takes off a riding helmet to present SR131, which would allow a state referendum on horse racing, during Crossover Day in the Georgia General Assembly In Atlanta on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. It failed to pass, but may be reconsidered if Mullis can get additional votes. Bills and resolutions need passage in either the House or the Senate by Crossover Day to be considered by the other chamber for passage this year. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Republican Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga takes off a riding helmet to present SR131, which would allow a state referendum on horse racing, during Crossover Day in the Georgia General Assembly In Atlanta on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. It failed to pass, but may be reconsidered if Mullis can get additional votes. Bills and resolutions need passage in either the House or the Senate by Crossover Day to be considered by the other chamber for passage this year. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
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Republican Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga takes off a riding helmet to present SR131, which would allow a state referendum on horse racing, during Crossover Day in the Georgia General Assembly In Atlanta on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. It failed to pass, but may be reconsidered if Mullis can get additional votes. Bills and resolutions need passage in either the House or the Senate by Crossover Day to be considered by the other chamber for passage this year. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
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Republican Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga takes off a riding helmet to present SR131, which would allow a state referendum on horse racing, during Crossover Day in the Georgia General Assembly In Atlanta on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. It failed to pass, but may be reconsidered if Mullis can get additional votes. Bills and resolutions need passage in either the House or the Senate by Crossover Day to be considered by the other chamber for passage this year. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia state senators defeated a constitutional amendment Tuesday that would have allowed voters to decide whether to legalize betting on horse racing.

The Senate voted 33-20 in favor of Senate Resolution 131, but that wasn’t enough to meet the two-thirds requirement for a constitutional amendment to move forward to the House. The vote broke across party lines, with a mix of Republicans and Democrats voting for and against the measure.

“I am disappointed in my colleagues,” said Republican Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga, who wore a jockey’s helmet when he first spoke on the bill. “I was really hoping you would let this go to the ballot. That’s all this does is send it to the ballot.”

Mullis tried to set up a second vote on the legislation, but gave up on that attempt at the end of Tuesday, the deadline for measures to pass out of their original chamber in the Georgia General Assembly.

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Senate Bill 212, which went along with the constitutional amendment, would have authorized up to five horse racing tracks anywhere in the state. Proponents said it would be an economic boon, attracting horse breeding and training to rural areas and with taxes on betting providing money for education, health care and other priorities.

They pointed to a Georgia Southern University study that shows horse racing could boost the state’s economy by $1.28 billion a year and create 15,800 jobs over a decade. That includes projected spinoffs from thoroughbred breeding.

“We should be rolling out the red carpet for this industry,” said Sen. Brandon Beach, an Alpharetta Republican.

Opponents, though, questioned whether horse tracks could survive without slot machines or some other kind of electronic gambling and casino games, all barred in the measure. Many oppose gambling on moral grounds or say it feeds addiction, although Georgia collects hundreds of millions of dollars each year through its lottery.

“In gambling, for there to be a winner, there must be a loser,” said Sen. Marty Harbin, a Tyrone Republican.

Some Georgia lawmakers typically attempt to expand gambling every year in the General Assembly, but none have been successful since voters approved the lottery in 1992. The House has been less friendly to expansion efforts in recent years, but House Speaker David Ralston gave proponents new hope in January when he said “there is an appetite this session that I hadn’t seen before to do something,” suggesting proponents should focus on a constitutional amendment and leave until later the details of whether the state will legalize casinos, sports betting or horse-race betting.

Senate Bill 142, a sports betting measure that the Senate approved last year, is still alive in the House this year.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.