One Casino Gambling Sponsor has a Change of Heart


(AJC) - Two Republican primary candidates were in the race for Senate District 21. The topic was gambling. Craft, a church activist from Forsyth County, would end up distributing the document to some of the largest churches in north Fulton and Cherokee counties.

One question: “Will you vote for the enabling legislation…that supports horse racing and pari-mutuel betting and/or casino gambling in Georgia?

”Incumbent Brandon Beach of Alpharetta, who would win his contest, had scratched out the casino reference and scrawled: “Horse racing only.”

The irony was that, one year later, Craft had just exited a hearing on Senate Bill 79, which would permit the establishment of two “destination resorts” in Georgia. Casinos, in other words. The bill’s chief sponsor is the re-elected Beach. And it has no provision for horse-racing.

Since then, I’ve had two telephone conversations with Beach. The first one began with something like a sigh.

“At the time, I wasn’t going to carry the casino bill,” the senator said. “I was trying to get horse-racing done.”

This is a tale of how issues morph and minds change — or have change foisted upon them — during the hothouse of a legislative session.

Beach was, in fact, the sponsor of a bill to permit pari-mutuel wagering on the ponies last year. It was something of a natural fit — north Fulton is a haven for stables and the horsey set.

S.B. 264 was free of any casino language, and won committee approval – but then died.

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