Georgia Lawmakers Again Punt On Sports Betting

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Sports betting in Georgia is dead.

At least for a few years.

The Georgia General Assembly adjourned Monday without passing sports betting legislation. A House committee passed a bill last week, but it never made it to the floor. The Senate passed its version last year.  

But now all measures are dead and lawmakers must start again in 2023. 

“Lawmakers have tried to expand gambling every year for the past quarter-century,” Daniel Wallach, an attorney who specializes in sports betting, said during his Conduct Detrimental podcast Sunday night. 

“It’s extremely conservative politically and there is general anti-gambling sentiment in the Senate,” he said, adding he predicted the legislature would not pass by the Monday deadline. 

When Could Sports Betting Come To Georgia?

Rep. Ron Stephens tried for the second year in a row to pass a bill that would put the issue before a statewide referendum. He hoped by giving voters a say he could expedite the situation and address Georgia’s constitutional law, which prohibits gambling. 

But while the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee passed Senate Bill 142 and Senate Resolution 135 on March 29, the measures never made it to the full House for consideration. 

SR 135 set the referendum in motion and Senate 142 stipulated how sports betting would be regulated if voters approved a referendum.

In last-minute action on Monday, SR 135 was amended to take away the sports betting components and instead insert language dealing with trees.

“This SR 135 has nothing to do with gambling.” Beau Evans, a reporter with State Affairs GA tweeted Monday night.

“State Rep. Sam Watson says the measure asking voters whether to legalize casinos/sports betting/horse racing, was gutted and replaced with a bill dealing with trees. #gapol

Since gambling expansion requires a change to the state’s constitution, and the best way to do that is through a general election referendum, it is unlikely sports betting will be on the ballot before 2024. 

Meaning sports betting likely won’t be legal in the Peach State until 2025 at the earliest. 

Opposition To Sports Betting On Multiple Fronts

Advocates for sports betting suffered from multiple opponents to gambling expansion. Conservative Republicans are prone to oppose on moral grounds and liberal Democrats are often opposed because they fear gambling preys on the disadvantaged. 

Furthermore, like its neighbor to the south, this is also an election year for Georgia.  In the final hours of the legislature, lawmakers were focused on issues that would galvanize base voters such as transgender athletes and taxes. 

Georgia is not the only southern state to struggle with sports betting.  North Carolina has seen efforts stall in 2022, and in South Carolina it is big news when a gubernatorial candidate announces support. Alabama lawmakers have passed sports betting out of a Senate committee, but that is it.  Only Tennessee, its neighbor in the north, allows sports betting. 

About the Author
Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is a writer and contributor for Gaming Today with a focus on legislation and political content. Mary is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.

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