Hygge trails to expansion

Hygge trails to expansion

March 14, 2021

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by Trey Nosrac

“Last year was a total bummer in a thousand ways, but it was a terrific year for political theater,” I said.

David tilted his head and said, “I didn’t realize my friend Trey was a political junkie.”

“Oh yeah, politics is one of my favorite blood sports.”

“Do you participate?”

“I vote, but I don’t have an official party. I’m not a big fan of yard signs or cable news propaganda. I’m your textbook swing voter, not taking sides makes me feel like Switzerland.”

“If you truly are truly independent, you are a rare breed. Politics is by nature partisan and emotional, and there is pressure to pick sides. New media enforces the worst instincts. Maybe you should vote for a third party, the swinging party.”

“I like the sound of that, but I have a better political idea: multiple parties. I just finished watching a Danish NETFLIX political series titled Borgen, very political, very educational.”

“Borgen?”

“The word means The Castle. It is also the informal name of Christiansborg Palace where the Danish Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Supreme Court reside.”

“Isn’t Demark about the size of Massachusetts, with fewer people?”

“Yeah. In Demark, they have like 10 political parties. All you need to do is give your new party a name like the Red/Green/Blue Party or the Conservative Right Alternative Alliance. Then if you round up two per cent, after the election, you get a seat at the table with proportional power.”

He smiled. “The U.S. can’t even get a third party off the ground.”

“After watching three NETFLIX seasons, the Danish national government looks like square dancing where partners change every few minutes. They seem to get along and not hold grudges. Denmark ranks as the world’s happiest nation, which is amazing since their tax rate is around 50 per cent.”

“You ever visited?”

“Just for a couple of days. The place had a good vibe. Denmark uses the word hygge, which is a combination of coziness, humor, and vegging out.”

“So, is Trey getting his travel visa?”

“Maybe. The damn Danes check a lot of my boxes, including the most important. The first thing I do when a new location crosses my radar screen is to investigate if they host harness horse racing and have sports betting.”

“And Denmark?

“YES, and yes. Somewhere, somehow, possibly goingback a thousand years when Viking King Gor and his son Harold Bluetooth ruled,at some point, legislation allowing harness racing and sports gambling got enacted. I wish that some states in America would show the same wisdom.”

“This sounds like a segue to your grievance about non-racing states?”

“Since I got into this game about two decades ago, the lack of growth annoys me. Nothing grows without new roots. Why can’t we get some new states racing, especially the southeastern states?”

“That’s easy,” he said, “state politics.”

I frowned and said, “Believe it or not, I follow horse racing legislation in the southeastern states, where we need a foothold and a fresh start. Guess what state could have a racing pulse?”

“North Carolina?”

“Nope, Georgia. Last month, a sports betting proposal, HB 86, passed out of the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee. Right on its heels was a Senate version, SB 142, that would legalize sports betting that offers a bit more than the House version.”

“Promising.”

“Could be. State Rep. Ron Stephens, in his opening remarks, spoke to what every state knows – More than $4.8 billion is illegally bet annually by 2.2 million Georgians. If they are going to do it offshore, why don’t they do it in Georgia?”

“Haven’t other bills gotten this far?” he asked.

“Yes, but these backers are bipartisan and have all four professional teams eager for legislation. Both bills would allow GA sports betting regulated through the Georgia Lottery with at least six mobile sportsbooks and no license cap.”

“That doesn’t mean horse racing.”

I frowned again. “Not those two bills. However, back at the legislation ranch, SB30 was introduced in January. Senator Brandon Beach is proposing a state racing commission that would have the power to issue licenses for up to three racetracks, including harness racing.”

“So, what are the chances?” he asked.

I sighed, “It’s complicated. Sports betting looks promising because HB 86 has a workaround. Sports betting would be added to and regulated by the Georgia Lottery. A process that merely requires a resolution. A state resolution only requires a simple majority and the governor’s signature.”

He said, “They might get that. The last national election and the state senatorial election showed the demographics are changing in Georgia.”

“Yeah, but horse racing has a steeper hill to climb than sports betting. To add casino gambling or horse racing requires Georgians to approve a constitutional amendment. Constitutional amendments need two-thirds of each chamber to clear the General Assembly, and then, a simple majority vote in an election.”

“Bummer,” he said, “but not impossible.”

I looked at my phone, “This is from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The stumbling block to getting pari-mutuel laws enacted in Georgia, as it has been for the past three decades since Georgia’s lottery became legal, has nothing to do with a lack of enthusiasm for horses. The difficulty has always been rounding up enough elected officials willing to support expanded gambling in a state where moral objections run high.”

He said, “That doesn’t sound great.”

I nodded, “But listen to this little nugget stashed into the text of HB 86. I will read it slowly because it is legalese.”

I read from my phone: “Any sports governing body on whose sporting event the corporation has authorized wagering may also enter into commercial agreements with sports wagering operators or other entities that provide for such sports governing body to share in the amount bet from sports wagering on sporting events of such sports governing body. A sports governing body shall not be required to obtain a license or any other approval from the corporation to enter into such commercial agreements.”

He gave a head-clearing shake and asked, “What does that gibberish mean? Racing is a sport. Could they do a deal on the side? Are the pro-gambling forces allied?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. I said I follow sports gambling legislation. I never said I understood it.”

“So, is anything imminent happening in Georgia.”

“Money and power will tell much of the tale, but the Georgia of today is not their mother’s Georgia. From what I’ve read, I’d give sports betting a 7-2 chance. Harness racing is still a longshot but has a chance.”

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