Officials from Entain Foundation US recently convened with Georgia lawmakers in Atlanta to deliberate on proposed gambling regulations. The meeting focused on bills aimed at potentially legalizing casino gambling, horseracing, and sports betting in the state.
Georgia currently only permits legal gambling in the form of lotteries and charity bingo. Pro-gambling organizations, including Entain, Princeton Public Affairs Group (PPAG), alongside other lobbyists, have been actively pushing for comprehensive gambling legalization in Georgia.
Bill Pascrell, an Entain trustee, has been an advocate for the legalization of both retail and online betting. He remains hopeful that Georgia, along with a handful of other states, will legalize sports betting in the upcoming year.
“Georgia has politically a lot of issues including the Trump indictment, so there’s a little bit of a distraction at the moment but I feel pretty positive Georgia is going to move (betting) on next year along with a few other states,” Pascrell said.
“If you don’t regulate it, you can’t track it, you can’t monitor it. The only way to penetrate and have an impact on problem gambling in a particular jurisdiction is to regulate it.”
Although the 2023 legislative session did not result in the passage of any sports betting bills in either chamber, sports betting continues to be the leading candidate for legalization, surpassing both casinos and horseracing in the state.
Amidst the increase in illegal betting activities, Martin Lycka, the Senior Vice President for American Regulatory Affairs and Responsible Gambling at Entain, believes that the legalization of sports betting would significantly curb black market gambling.
Lycka is of the opinion that the local economy would receive a boost from not just the revenue generated from taxation but also from the potential money to be spent on the future marketing of betting within the state.
“The other one relates to consumer protection legislation in order to clamp down on any black market,” Lycka said.
“Let’s not fool ourselves into believing that Georgians would not be betting at the moment.”
Pro-Gambling Advocates Encounter Strong Opposition
Several attempts have been made to legalize sports betting, horse racing, and casinos by Georgia legislators in the last couple of years. However, these efforts have consistently fallen short.
The lawmakers have grappled with finding common ground on key issues such as revenue distribution, the types of gambling to permit, and addressing concerns related to gambling addiction. This division among legislators has hindered the progress of comprehensive gambling legislation in the state.
The legalization of gambling in Georgia has also been met with strong resistance, notably from the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. The Board vehemently opposes various forms of gambling, especially sports betting.
“Sports gambling is one of the most dangerous forms of gambling because of its easy accessibility and its ability to create addiction,” the Board lobbyist Mike Griffin said.
“While I know it is being said that many are already doing this kind of gambling anyway, we must understand that just because somebody is doing something illegal does not mean that it should be made legal.”
“Something as detrimental as sports gambling made legal will be like putting gasoline on a fire. It will make something that is already bad, just worse.”
In contrast, Entain views legalization as a means to readily identify individuals struggling with gambling addiction, rather than them placing bets through unregulated channels.
“If you don’t regulate it, you can’t track it, you can’t monitor it,” Pascrell said.
“And unlike alcohol and drug use, it’s really not readily apparent whether somebody’s having a gambling addiction problem. The only way to penetrate and have an impact on problem gambling in a particular jurisdiction is to regulate it.”