ALPHARETTA, Ga. -- Georgia could add as many as 20,000 jobs and an economic impact of $1 billion by legalizing betting on horse racing, according to one major-party statewide candidate who threw his support for it today.
J.B. Powell, the Democratic nominee for agriculture commissioner, brought reporters to an Atlanta-area horse farm to make his announcement. He said it is the first of five proposals he will unveil to boost the state's economy through agriculture.
Not only do the funds for building the $200-million tracks, the farms and training facilities come from private capital rather than taxpayers, the state's HOPE Scholarship program would also take in a share of the betting proceeds as a new source of revenue, Powell said.
"They'll see that it doesn't cost the state anything," he said of hesitant legislators. "It's time that we find a new revenue source."
Powell, who faces Republican Gary Black and Libertarian Kevin Cherry on the November ballot, said his support of giving voters a say on legalized betting will be a central feature in his campaign advertising.
However, he said he has received no campaign donations from anyone in the racing industry, and he doesn't raise horses on his cattle farm in Blythe, near Augusta.
In fact, Powell is personally not overly fond of horses since clashing with one his sister owned when they were kids.
Asked about moral objections, he said it would not be a change.
"We're not advocating gambling. We're giving people the choice. The people have already had their say on gambling when we passed the lottery," he said.