Committee looks at horse racing in GA - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Committee looks at horse racing in GA

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And... they're off! A state House Committee has until the end of the year to study potential horse racing and pari-mutuel betting for the Peach state.

Some people say this is something the state should have looked into years ago.

Horse racing and parimutuel betting could have been a new industry for Georgia more than 25 years ago when it was first discussed in the legislature. Those like Neil Wingfield who are familiar with harness racing and the industry fear a new House committee looking at the possibility now may be too late getting out of the gate.

"I keep up with what's going on in the horse racing industry and I see these other states that have been a strong hold and they're struggling so much right now, I just don't see how states like Georgia can overcome such an obstacle," said Neil Wingfield, Wingfield Ag and former harness driver.

Others in the industry disagree and feel it could still be a viable option. At one time horses ranked fifth in Georgia commodities.

"It would bring in a good bit of revenue to our state from anywhere to commodities, to new jobs in law enforcement, and things like this and I think it's a great sport and those of us who are in horses do enjoy that," said Norma Karst, Owner of the Equine Store and horse trainer.

 While Norma Karst likes the economic benefits it could bring, she doesn't want the care of horses to be sacrificed and believes regulations are needed to ensure for the proper care of horses whether its thoroughbred or harness racing. Many also raise concerns about having parimutuel betting involved at tracks.

"It mostly always has been about the gambling, and the pari-mutuel, with all the alternatives for entertainment these days," said Wingfield.

"Where one person may be able to control their urges to spend a dollar here and a dollar there on betting on a horse race where some are not able to control that and they may take their whole weeks pay and bet on a horse or something and when they lose of course they lost everything," said Karst.

Many in the industry will be watching closely to see what legislators come up with. For those who worked to bring horse racing to Georgia years ago like former Representative John White, he hopes the state will take a serious look at the issue. He says each horse that races at one time created as many as seven jobs.

Horse racing and pari-mutuel betting is legal in 38 states, including neighboring Alabama and Florida.

  • Click HERE to see a study of the effects of horse betting in Alabama

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