Sports betting hits roadblock yet again in Georgia's 2024 legislative session

The Georgia legislative session ended on Thursday, marking another year without the legalization of sports betting in the state. Despite optimistic predictions earlier this year, no bills concerning sports gambling were passed during the session. With Georgia remaining one of the 12 states without permitted sports gambling, the future of sports betting in the Peach State seems uncertain.

During their final meeting, the House Rules Committee decided against submitting Senate Bills 386 and 579 to the full House for a vote. The legislators could not agree on how to utilize the revenue generated from sportsbooks.

Lawrenceville Democrat and House Minority Whip Sam Park voted to move forward Senate Resolution 579 and Senate Bill 386. However, he and fellow Democrats expressed reservations about passing the bills in their current form. This reluctance stems from the House committee's amendment, which now permits taxes to be allocated for HOPE college scholarships and pre-K programs.

Without a definitive answer, many House Democrats refused to support the sports gambling initiatives, hindering the Republicans' ability to secure the necessary two-thirds majority for a required resolution component.

The Longstanding Gambling Stance in Georgia

The state lottery, which began operating in Georgia in 1992 after a public vote, has remained the only legal form of gambling until now. A survey reveals that a majority of citizens (52%) favor legalizing sports betting, provided the revenues generated are allocated to the HOPE higher education initiative.

Atlanta's legislative assembly is working on passing bills to allow for the operation of sportsbooks, with an option for online platforms. According to State Sen. Clint Dixon (R-Burford), sports wagering might be categorized as a lottery expansion, potentially eliminating the need for a Georgia Constitution amendment vote. However, his chamber colleagues disagreed and added a provision to SB 386 that mandated the passage of a constitutional amendment for the bill to become law.

Roadblocks to Legalizing Sports Betting

An upgrade in taxes was implemented for SB 386, as the legislative process brought about a new tax rate of 25% on the gross revenue generated from sports betting.

Up to sixteen sports betting licenses were outlined in the legislation at an annual expense of one million dollars apiece. In the Georgia Senate, Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) introduced SR 579, asking for voter approval to enable lawmakers to establish rules for managing sports wagers. Despite efforts made during the legislative session, gaming expansion measures continue to surface in nearly every Georgia legislative session.

The staunch opposition from influential religious groups in Georgia towards expanding gambling opportunities remains a significant roadblock in the path to legalizing sports betting. Their concerns over potential risks and negative consequences for Georgians continue to cast doubt on the issue, making it an uphill battle for lawmakers to secure enough support for its passage.

Suzanne Guy, an influential figure in the Georgia Baptist Convention and a long-standing opponent of gambling expansion, voiced her apprehensions regarding the potential risks and negative consequences that could arise from legalizing sports betting in Georgia during a public address last month.

The Future of Sports Betting in Georgia

As of now, sports betting is permitted in thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia, while Georgia remains among the twelve states that continue to prohibit this form of gambling. The enactment of sports betting legislation in Georgia continues to elude us, as the state is projected to remain among the 12 without such permissible activities until at least the year 2025.

With the conclusion of the Georgia legislative session and no progress made on the issue of sports betting legalization, Georgians and sports fans' anticipation remains unfulfilled as they look forward to future opportunities to address this topic.