Georgia Sports Betting Efforts Fail Again in Atlanta Capital

Posted on: March 29, 2024, 09:34h. 

Last updated on: March 29, 2024, 10:55h.

Georgia will remain free of sports betting for the foreseeable future.

Georgia sports betting bills
Legislation to legalize sports betting was on the minds of Georgia lawmakers this year, but no bill was ultimately passed. Georgia will remain one of the 12 states that don’t have permitted sports gambling. (Image: Shutterstock)

The odds of sports gambling finding favor in the General Assembly seemed optimistic earlier this year. The body has been historically opposed to nearly all forms of gambling for decades.

The state’s legislative session ended on Thursday without action.

The House Rules Committee had two sports gambling statutes in its possession — Senate Bill 386 and Senate Resolution 579 — but opted to forgo passing the measures to the full House floor on its 40th and final legislative day.

House lawmakers couldn’t agree on how tax revenue generated by sportsbooks would be used.

House Minority Whip Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville) said the state and voters should be told how the gambling proceeds would be used to improve the Peach State. Without a clear explanation, Park and many other House Democrats refused to get behind the sports gambling initiatives. That rendered the Republicans’ ability to achieve a two-thirds majority support for the required resolution component unattainable.

Georgia Remains on Sports Betting Sidelines

Georgia hasn’t expanded or legalized new forms of gambling since 1992, when the state-run lottery was authorized through a statewide ballot referendum. Recent polling suggests that the public supports becoming a sports betting state. An early 2023 survey found that 52% of statewide voters would embrace regulated sports gambling if subsequent tax revenues were earmarked for the state’s HOPE (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) higher education program.

Atlanta lawmakers labored to determine how to go about bringing legal retail and, possibly, online sportsbooks to the state.

State Sen. Clint Dixon (R-Burford), who authored the original SB 386, initially believed sports gambling could be considered an expansion of the lottery and, therefore, wouldn’t need to undergo a statewide ballot referendum to amend the Georgia Constitution. That would have presented an easier legislative path, as the two-thirds majority support to initiate a referendum wouldn’t have been needed.

Dixon’s chamber colleagues disagreed and tacked on a provision before it passed the state Senate in early February. That addendum says SB 386 can only become law with the passage of an amendment to the Georgia Constitution.

Enter Senate Resolution 579.

SB 386 underwent other changes as it made its way through the Senate, including raising the proposed tax on gross sports betting win from 20% to 25%. The bill called for as many as 16 sports gambling licenses, with each costing $1 million a year.

SR 579 was filed by Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) after the referendum mandate was attached to Dixon’s bill. The resolution sought permission from voters for the General Assembly to craft and pass regulations to govern sports gambling.

Opposition Succeeds Again

Gaming expansion measures come up in nearly every legislative session in Georgia. The state’s powerful and influential religious interests remained unbeaten in keeping more gambling at bay.  

This is profoundly dangerous for Georgians and opens up all kinds of dangers,” Suzanne Guy, a member of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Public Affairs Committee, said last month regarding sports gambling legalization efforts.

Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have passed sports gambling laws. Georgia won’t become the 39th until at least 2025.