The legalization of sports betting in Georgia is a long-standing saga in the legislature

And it’s already going. Supporters say Georgians illegally bet nearly $ 5 billion a year on sports. Georgians can download a website or sports betting app on their mobile phone and gamble on games – most likely using overseas servers and circumventing Georgian laws that make the practice illegal.

The Georgia Senate passed legislation last year that would require voters to approve online sports betting. The legislation went through several iterations in the House during this year’s legislature and eventually became bills that would ask voters if they support allowing several forms of gambling. But they never made it to the polls.

“The Senate just wanted sports betting and didn’t want to be fooled by anything else,” said House Regulated Industries Chairman Alan Powell, R-Hartwell. “It’s ridiculous for me to do it that way. If you’re going to put him on the ballot, drop them all, because gambling is gambling. “

As the measures were not adopted before the end of the two-year legislative cycle, legislators will have to start from scratch next year and seek to put it to a vote in 2024.

House of Representatives Speaker Ron Stevens, a Savannah Republican who supports all forms of gambling in Georgia, said he would continue to work to bring sports betting to the finish line.

“The stupid thing is that people will do it anyway. For me, it’s a matter of regulating it, which is a big deal, taxing it and getting the revenue, ”Stevens said. “We’ll try again.”

For most of the decade, supporters have urged the legislature to expand gambling to include casinos or horse racing. Following the Supreme Court ruling, a coalition of Atlanta’s professional sports teams – Braves, Falcons, Hawks and Atlanta United – turned to online sports betting and lobbied lawmakers to pass the bill.

More than 30 states have or are in the process of establishing legitimate sports betting.

Supporters say sports betting can bring in $ 30 million to $ 100 million in revenue. Critics say such figures are exaggerated.

Supporters failed to agree on where to collect the money. Options discussed include using the proceeds to strengthen the merit-based HOPE Fellowship, paying needs-based scholarships, and funding rural health care and broadband efforts across the country.

The future of sports betting legislation in Georgia is unclear. Supporters have vowed to continue to push for the practice to be legalized, while opponents have said they will continue to fight the expansion of any form of gambling – which they say is immoral, addictive and leads to crime.

U.S. Representative Wes Cantrell, a Woodstock Republican and pastor, is a staunch opponent of expanding gambling in Georgia. He said that while sports gambling is the least worrying of the three options being discussed in Georgia, it is a “slippery slope”.

“This allows troubled gamblers to gamble in private, which is the worst-case scenario for them because they can do so in the privacy of their own home and bet their rent and college money on their child,” he said.

Mike Griffin, a lobbyist on the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said gambling creates mental, financial and security problems for Georgians.

“Yes, it generates revenue, but it also creates other needs,” Griffin said. “Gambling is an addictive product, just like heroin, opioids, alcohol and cocaine. … Sports betting is the most accessible form of gambling that exists, which creates more problems – faster problems – and sometimes more devastating problems of mental health and bankruptcy. ”

The flow of lawmakers who want to expand gambling will also shape the future of the effort. Senate Rules President Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, who sponsored Senate legislation that left the House last year, does not want re-election.

U.S. Sen. Burt Jones, a Jackson Republican who also sponsors sports betting accounts, is not seeking re-election but is running for vice governor. One of the roles of the lieutenant governor is to preside over the Senate and convene legislation in the debate room.

“I’m still in the same position to support the online sports betting (gambling expansion) part,” Jones said. “Obviously, as a lieutenant governor, you don’t carry banknotes, but if someone carried them and assembled them properly, I would definitely let them go to the floor to vote. And I think it will pass. “

Charlie Bailey, who won the Democratic nomination for deputy governor in Tuesday’s election runoff, also said he supported legalized sports betting.

“We have to regulate it well and tax it,” he said. “And use that money to … pay for education before K and pay our teachers promotions, not one-time bonuses, and make the technical college free.”

Ryan Graham, the Libertarian candidate in the November election, also said he supported it.

“Sports gambling happens, regardless of the law, and has much worse results when it’s illegal,” Graham said. “We either hand over sports betting to organized crime and fraud, or we allow peaceful people to spend their money in a legal economy.


Key dates in the Georgian sports gambling discussion:

  • May 2018

    The U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned a federal law restricting sports gambling, stepping up efforts in Georgia and other states.

  • November 2019

    The presidents of Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta United formed the Alliance for Professional Sports Integrity in Georgia and sent a letter to state lawmakers asking them to legalize online and mobile sports betting.

  • February 20, 2020

    U.S. Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, has filed a bill aimed at authorizing the Georgia Lottery to run an online sports betting system that will benefit the state’s HOPE scholarship.

  • June 19, 2020

    A Senate committee has voted to resurrect a proposal that would allow mobile sports betting in Georgia.

  • February 2, 2021

    Legislation that would legalize online sports betting – the Chamber’s Bill 86 – easily passed through a U.S. House committee in progress aimed at expanding gambling without the constitutional amendment that is usually required.

  • March 5, 2021

    The Georgia Senate has approved legislation – Senate Resolution 135 – that could legalize online sports betting in the state. Senators also voted to approve Senate Bill 142, which regulates the way sports betting is conducted in the state.

  • March 31, 2021

    Senate Resolution 135 was scheduled for debate in the House of Representatives, removed from the calendar, corrected and returned to the House several times, but House Democrats refused to support the measure and there was not enough Republican support to revive it.

  • March 18, 2022

    The proposal to allow voters to decide whether horse betting should be legal in the state was not made by the Senate before the deadline.

  • March 28, 2022

    Attempts to expand legalized gambling in Georgia have re-emerged as House of Representatives-approved legislation – Senate Resolution 135 – that will require voters to allow “sports betting and other forms of gambling and gambling.” The commission also approved Senate Bill 142, which will now set up a Georgia Sports Betting Commission to run an online sports betting system if the constitutional amendment is approved.

  • April 4, 2022

    Lawmakers have rejected late efforts to allow online sports betting. The bill failed to clear the House Rules Committee, which sets the agenda for a full vote.

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