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horse racing in Georgia

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  • horse racing in Georgia

    I live in Georgia, and last night on the news they made mention of the fact that there's a bill going up before the legislature to legalize gambling and pari-mutuel betting with an eye toward allowing horse racing here in Georgia. What do others in the industry think of this?

    Personally, I'm torn. If they built a track, would I attend just on the basis of seeing the horses run? Hell yeah! But I also think about what this would do to the horse economy itself. Would it prompt more people to breed? Would another track mean there'd be just that many more horses to have to find homes for when their racing careers are done? Is Georgia even a viable state to support racing? They had the track just over in Birmingham, and we see how long that lasted...

    What say you racing peeps?!
    Last edited by Real Rush; Mar. 22, 2013, 02:07 PM. Reason: spelling

  • #2
    Wow, if they build a track in GA I'm moving there!!. I want to retire there near extended family, but if a track is built I can move sooner.
    To answer your question, I think if they raced in the winter they would help provide another venue for racing when the northern tracks are closed. I worked at the Birmingham track the first year it opened. I don't know why it failed but that was in 1986 if my memory serves me right. Most horsemen travel from one track to another on a "circuit". Here in Ohio we are lucky to have nearly year round racing and I have a farm and don't travel but that is not the norm.
    Would a new track create more horses being bred? It is possible if a GA bred program is created. Many states offer extra money in purses and breeder awards to horses bred and raced in the same state.
    My area supports 3 racetracks within a 2-3 hr drive of each other.
    In the summer when all three are running sometimes the fields are short, 6-7 horses rather than 10-12 in a race.
    I hope GA gets a track, I'm excited at the prospects.
    My mom didn't raise no jellybean salesman!


    • #3
      A GA bred program exists! I think it is great to have a track in a warmer climate, look how successful a meet Oaklawn runs. I probably wouldn't want to run in GA on a summer day, but depending on the facility they build and the races they write, it could give an option to people that have limited choices in where they can take their horses and be competitive currently during winter months.

      Originally posted by The Saddle
      Perhaps I need my flocking adjusted.


      • #4
        There was "Grand Circuit" harness racing held at Lakewood Park (Atlanta) for thirteen years (1916-1928).
        The folks pushing the legislation have some extensive materials that I provided approximately two years ago when their "push" began.

        Given the time and the "event of Grand Circuit racing" there would have been daily massive coverage in the Atlanta Newspapers. I'm most positive all that material exists somewhere on microfilm.

        Lakewood Park continued in limited capacity for some years.

        There has always been winter training centers in Georgia that held some limited matinee races. Today, the only one I'm aware of is Hawkinsville.
        In decades past there was a big winter training community at the fairgrounds at Macon.

        I've also a recently archived 1948 item that says there was a Driving Club at Eastman, Ga.
        Even Gainesville used to hold a fair with harness racing.

        Georgia has a very rich history in all of horse racing, unfortunately that same history is just not mainstream.

        Not sure if these links still work:

        Racing advertising



        susan Hayward


        • #5
          Hmm . . . my husband & I are talking among ourselves on where to retire. He is thinking Georgia & a track would certainly weigh in its favor.

          Some of OP's questions are unanswerable - depending on how GA styles the legislation, there might be more Georgia-bred horses born, but there is a serious downward trend in TB breeding the last few years, so on balance, probably not more horses bred, overall. Whether a GA track would be viable has more to do with the state's legislation, the business acumen of track owners, and things like that.

          It would add to the local economy. Again, whether it is "good" or "bad" depends on who gets the license to operate a track, how the legislature structures the law & things like that.

          BTW, wildernessD, good post!
          Hidden Echo Farm, Carlisle, PA -- home of JC palomino sire Canadian Kid (1990 - 2013) & AQHA sire Lark's Favorite, son of Rugged Lark.


          • #6
            They are trying hard to sell racing here;

            We currently only have the Steeplechase (April 13th).
            ... _. ._ .._. .._


            • #7
              As much as folks may want to have a track in GA one has to question the longevity of its success. Plenty of tracks - even those which are the only game in town - are struggling so why would GA be able to succeed?

              The reality is the tracks that are doing ok to well are fueled by slots money. Absent of that in GA with a portion having to be diverted (which is very key - see Illinois for the poster child of missing that connection) it will just be another venue featuring low purse, claiming races as its bread & butter with largely empty seats save for perhaps an single hyped up weekend race.

              A track (and its horsemen) is a business. It lives by virtue of the wagering handle which is fed either on site, by directly controlled OTBs, and simulcast wagering (Twinspires, et al) which only divert a sliver of the monies wagered from the signal back to the track itself. Hot dogs, entry fees, admission charges, parking fees, et al isn't the financial lifeblood.

              Would prospective track investors/owners put money into a new facility knowing it will be host to say just a boutique meet? That's a tough sell. The now gone Mass Fair Circuit chugged along (even flourished) into the 1970s/1980s as they did by using grandstands built long before and cobbled the races during the fairs. No new infrastructure was having to be built. So too goes the Atlantic City Race course - it does a tidy bit of business only because it doesn't put capital into the venue. Rather people just accept the old rusting place.

              Not trying to be negative here. Sure there will be people who will see the novelty in wagering and maybe there is some tremendous pent up demand that's been untapped.

              I suggested elsewhere that frankly there is a need to test the theory that Georgians have an appetite for wagering on horses. As such the backers should try to focus on passing legislature that Virginia did (some time ago, but recent rediscovered) that allowed for wagering at steeplechasing. e.g., [see this article by Hunter's Rest on the legal details - effectively its legal for pari-mutuel gambling at single-day, charity events.]

              Test the theory with the Atlanta Steeplechase that people want to wager heartily. See if money can be made with racing that involves no grandstands being built and the venue already exists. If that unleashes some windfall then the idea with a purpose built flat track might make sense. Until it really doesn't make sense to push for wagering and a track


              • Original Poster

                Thanks to everyone for chiming in, especially wildernessD and Equibrit for the links. I knew about the harness stuff down in Hawkinsville, and have attended the beautiful Atlanta Steeplechase a few times, but had no idea about the actual harness racing down at Lakewood. Pretty interesting! A friend of mine sits on the board of the GTOBA. (thanks for the link, rust!)

                Personally, I know there's one person involved in the push to legalize that has been very vocal and pro-active, but some of their methods and "promises" don't come across right all the time or ring true. For one, this person has promised that if they legalize pari-mutuel betting and build a track, the horse racing powers-that-be have already promised to bring the Breeders Cup here. At one point they even sent out an email blast saying that the Breeders Cup would move here permanently, and we all know that that just ain't gonna happen. (or at least is extremely unlikely)

                I would love to hear more people's opinions on the subject, whether for or against.


                • #9
                  I dont think it would create more horses being bred. Theres only a finite number of horses out there. It would create a good market for 2nd tier mares in other states, same way as Louisiana did. And certainly there would be people bringing in really good mares to foal there, depending if their breeders awards are any good. I just dont think it would make people breed mares that they arent breeding now anyway.


                  • #10
                    Didn't Alabama legalize a Birmingham area track years ago that never got off the ground?
                    "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                    Thread killer Extraordinaire


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by vineyridge View Post
                      Didn't Alabama legalize a Birmingham area track years ago that never got off the ground?
                      Birmingham racecourse raced horses on and off from 1987 to 1995. It went bankrupt several times under different owners. The track is still there, but runs only dog racing these days.


                      • Original Poster

                        ^^This is why I was questioning the viability of having a track in Georgia. I don't know much about the "nuts and bolts" of keeping a track afloat, so don't realize how much depends on track management versus incentives offered to breeders/owners/trainers versus attendance by spectators/bettors.


                        • #13
                          Not enough support for pari-mutual betting in the southeast. Dogwood Farm was located in Greenville, GA from apx. 1970-1980's then moved over to Aiken,SC. The owned of Dogwood, can't remember his name, tried to work with the GA government and local officials to tout the long term economic benefits of the race horse industry. Too many believed the tracks would attract people involved in crime, drugs, prostitution etc. And of course GA had none of those types at the time. . . Anyway there has been talk of horse racing in GA for over 40 years.

                          Now there is no pari-mutual betting in SC but there is a history of horses wintering/training in Aiken and Camden plus steeplechasing. Plus the Aiken and Camden steeplechase races bring in large numbers of visitors and monies for the state.
                          "Never do anything that you have to explain twice to the paramedics."
                          Courtesy my cousin Tim


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by fooler View Post
                            The owner of Dogwood, can't remember his name, tried to work with the GA government and local officials to tout the long term economic benefits of the race horse industry.
                            That would be Cot Campbell. I've enjoyed his BloodHorse contributions with tales of different characters. It is interesting how horse racing has done well in SC absent of pari-mutual wagering although off the record betting does occur.

                            Just this past weekend despite the colder temps (40's) and rain the 47th Aiken Steeplechase still brought out 25,000+ to watching the annual tradition.


                            • #15
                              There is NO WAY this could work. Even tracks in Kentucky are struggling against the competition from slot machines in surrounding states. I'm a native Georgian who worked in bloodstock in Kentucky and England years ago - there is no modern tradition of racing here. Traffic in the Atlanta area would make attendance difficult for large numbers. The only people who made money from the track in Birmingham were the consultants from (I think) Massachusetts who really sold a bill of goods to the track owners - too far out of town, no bus routes for people with no cars, no tradition of recent racing and too much emphasis on the "upscale" clubhouse area.

                              In my opinion this whole issue is just an attempt to get a toehold for gambling in the state. Anyone foolish enough to build a track would eventually end up racing greyhounds and trying hard to get slot machines and other gambling. Folks not used to horse racing find the times between races to drag on while greyhound action moves along faster and casino gambling would be much preferred by the masses.


                              • #16
                                Hawkinsville Harness Festival set for April 6
                                Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - by T.C. Lane, the U.S. Trotting Association

                                Columbus, OH --- The Hawkinsville Training Center in Hawkinsville, Ga., will host its annual Harness Festival on Saturday (April 6), with post time at 3 p.m.

                                All entries must be received by Monday (April 1) at 2 p.m. and can be made by calling Dan Ater at 614.554.2154.

                                Aside from the April 6 event, there are plans to conduct qualifiers on April 13 as well, with post time to be announced at a later date.


                                • #17
                                  From last month, Nov 2013: ... yet another article showing the push for pari-mutuel wagering in the Peachtree State. A lot of pie in the sky sales/marketing if you ask me

                                  "This will bring thousands of jobs and a tremendous amount of money – many millions of dollars," Geisinger said. "It's an opportunity for us."

                                  He added that the money used to build the track won't be with tax dollars, but instead will be privately funded.

                                  And with that money, Damico said the coalition hopes to build "one spectacular boutique race track" in the greater Atlanta area.

                                  The track would host a Georgia Derby for colts and a Georgia Oaks for fillies each year, which Damico said would be a wonderful tourist attraction.
                                  Just for comparison, a far more equine vibrant (or at least has been) State is Virginia. For 2014 the total number of days of flat racing at the sole track for the state - Colonial Downs - is just 25 days over 8 weeks. That is what the Virginia Racing Commission approved, whereas Colonial Downs asked for just 12 live days over four weeks. Ouch!

                                  So if anyone in Georgia sees the economic return in acquiring land, then building a $25 million + grandstand, clubhouse, and stabling for what is a few weeks at best of racing they must be a magician


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Well, metro Atlanta already does have one large landowner who also happens to be an avid equestrian-- Carl Bouckaert. However, I still don't see it as a viable venue, either. Especially not with so many other tracks closing in North America.

                                    Aside from all this, I'm still torn about whether I'd want it to happen or not. On one hand, if there was a track here, I'd definitely attend as much as possible. However, I dread the downside-- more horses being produced for racing, and then having to find homes when their careers end. Or maybe with other tracks closing, the volume of horses being produced wouldn't expand much, they would just be run at a different locale.(?)


                                    • #19
                                      As an outsider, my observations would be A) slot machines attract the money and the racing seems to be the excuse and B) the level of drug abuse is so high that the number of people willing to bet is falling
                                      Nearly 80 percent of bettors factored in the possibility of illegal drug use when handicapping races at certain tracks, or in certain states, according to a recent poll by the Jockey Club, and the money wagered in North America has fallen to about $11 billion this year from nearly $15.5 billion in 2007.
                                      "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Willesdon View Post
                                        As an outsider, my observations would be A) slot machines attract the money and the racing seems to be the excuse and B) the level of drug abuse is so high that the number of people willing to bet is falling
                                        I cannot say I agree with the final point, but I'm quite certain that is tattooed somewhere on Joe Drape's arm at The New York Times.

                                        Wagering on horse racing - or rather market share of wagering money - has fallen since the 1970's with the explosion of alternative gambling options that didn't exist before.

                                        From the lottery (scratch cards, pick five, mega millions, et al) to a casino within a few hours from almost everyone in the country. Compare that to when only a few States had a single lottery and there was just Vegas and Atlantic City to drop your money - and neither was terribly family friends.

                                        A reworked pitch by Vegas/AC and a plethora of Indian-casinos go heavily after families to spend money at "resorts" with wagering. Using glamorous ads that suggest River Boat gambling excusions for the day is something fun and exotic. Tons of lottery choices with huge prizes and terrible odds. Not to mention the advent of the internet allowing for legal and illegal wagering (NBA, NFL, college sports) It all adds up to circumstances where these alternatives siphon off what money people wager.

                                        The same could be said for market share with Coke and Pepsi dropping with more and more alternative drinks taking what had been theirs.