Georgians favor racetrack gambling vote, poll says

Boosters for measure say 72 percent statewide support vote on issue

ATLANTA — A group pushing legalized betting on horse races has released a poll showing 72 percent of those questioned favor a statewide vote on allowing racetrack gambling.


Just 27 percent reject the idea of letting the public have a say in the ballot box.

The poll, conducted by Landmark Communications for the Georgia Horseracing Coalition and released Friday, showed the strongest argument for it was the jobs racing could bring.

The idea that gambling is immoral proved to be a reason for more people to support it than to oppose it. Just 27 percent of those questioned oppose it on moral grounds while 41 percent said immorality was a reason in its favor.

A Georgia Senate version of legislation to legalize horse betting would designate part of the proceeds from the racetracks as going to help fund the HOPE Scholarship.

The proposed legislation specifically doesn’t allow other forms of gambling, such as casinos, although many experts say a track can’t survive financially without slot machines and poker.

Hal Barry, an Atlanta developer who chairs the Horseracing Coalition, said Atlanta’s population and distance from tracks in Kentucky and Florida make it an attractive market for a complex including a track, shopping and residences.

“The economic impact is big,” he said, dismissing concerns that the growing number of states legalizing gambling could reduce the attraction to Georgia as a gaming center for tourists.

Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy also issued a report Friday showing horse racing would bring financial benefits, although it offered no estimates.

“Overall, we find compelling evidence supporting arguments that legalizing pari-mutuel wagering would produce a broad range of economic benefits,” the university authors wrote. “Growing the state equine industry and increasing state revenues would be the two most likely possibilities. Broader impacts are also possible that would contribute to enhancing Georgia as a destination state and possibility creating a more positive synergy between urban and rural areas of the state.”

The university study did not examine any negative consequences, such as predictions that crime would rise or gambling addiction would increase.

The Landmark survey of 1,038 registered voters was conducted Feb. 13. It has a 3 percent margin of error.

Veteran pollster Mark Rountree, the president of Landmark, said his goal was not to sway the results to please his client.

“We phrased these questions neutral, and the results are very positive,” he said.



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