House Speaker Suggests 2023 Georgia Sports Betting Bid isn't Dead Yet

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Mar 16, 2023 08:00 PM
House Speaker Suggests 2023 Georgia Sports Betting Bid isn't Dead Yet

Earlier this month, lawmakers nixed a Georgia sports betting bill. That decision effectively killed the initiative altogether, at least until next year. Or rather, that's what we thought. In reality, the 2023 Georgia sports betting bid isn't dead yet.

Or so says Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns.

“We have a 40-day session last time I checked, and we’re going to have a 40-day session this year,” Burns told assembled media at an Atlanta Press Club luncheon, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We don’t close the door on anything. We’re going to continue to talk.”

Have questions? Of course you do. And so do we.

How can sports betting in Georgia be legalized if the latest gambling bill, entitled Senate Resolution 140, was bounced back? What does that scenario look like? Is it especially likely? Or is it a long-shot loophole? We've scoured the web and latest reports for answers.

How Georgia Sports Betting Can Still be Legalized in 2023

For Georgia to still legalize sports betting, a new initiative must be added to a current bill awaiting a vote. That means a fresh proposal must be cobbled together by the end of this year's sessions, which adjourn on April 6. While addendums aren't unheard of in Georgia legislature, the participating lawmakers don't have a ton of time to get the job done. They have, at most, three weeks before "Drop dead day," which is the point at which no new agendas can be added to the table.

Of course, officials could also attempt to legalize Georgia sports betting through alternative means. Currently, they have proposed gambling initiatives that require a constitutional amendment. That route puts them up against a clock. They need to approve any sports betting bill before the legislative meetings adjourn so that it can appear on the next general election ballot in 2024. 

Georgia can, however, seek to implement a form of gambling that doesn't require a constitutional amendment. We have seen states like Florida and Washington, among others, do something similar to varying degrees of success. That said, the legalization of Georgia online sports betting isn't possible without a constitutional amendment. The state would be limited to gaming compacts with local tribes that pertain strictly to in-person wagering.

This course of action doesn't seem particularly likely. To date, online sports betting in Georgia has been a sticking point. It has been a part of almost every recent gambling bill proposed by state officials. That's not suddenly going to change. Online sports betting is too lucrative of a business right now. That's why so many states have legalized gambling with the intent to license many of the most popular and highly reviewed online sportsbooks in the industry. They understand a vast majority of wagers are now processed via phones, tablets, computers and other mobile devices. The legalization of sports betting without online access isn't pointless, but it generates far less tax revenue.

Granted, Georgia could always broker in-person gaming compacts and then seek to legalize online sports betting in later years. But that's a slippery slope. Local tribes hold a ton of leverage once they sign gaming compacts, which are essentially stamps of exclusivity. Georgia would need to make sure there's a provision in any in-person gaming compacts that stipulates they retain the right to tinker with online sports betting laws as they see fit.

Is Georgia Likely to Revisit Sports Betting Proposals During 2023 Legislature Meetings?

This part of the equation is actually two separate questions. Is Georgia going to revisit the sports betting issue before legislature sessions adjourn? Absolutely. House Speaker Jon Burns already confirmed as much. Will they actually tack another sports betting proposal onto a bill that's still up for deliberation? Now, that's a different story. Unfortunately, the answer is probably no.

Georgia's threshold for sports betting legalization remains incredibly high. They need a two-thirds majority to approve any gambling bill. When the Senate voted on SR 140, they only received 30 votes in favor of the initiative. That's well short of the 38 "yays" they need for a measure to make it through to a general election.

The odds of Georgia picking up an extra eight votes over the next couple of weeks aren't great. Any language in the new proposal would have to address plausibly solvable concerns. And in this instance, Georgia's division on the legal sports betting platform is less about policy and more about diverging opinions. As Bennett Conlin noted for Sports Handle, SR 140 failed to pass because so many officials maintain that sports betting is fundamentally immoral. Others, meanwhile, were uncomfortable with the idea of a constitutional amendment. In other words: They still preferred in-person betting over online options.

Turning a few votes in the coming weeks isn't out of the question. Perhaps some lawmakers not sold on online sports betting in Georgia can be convinced by increasing compliance language and tax rates. The moral issue is a different kind of obstacle. Shifting deep-seated beliefs is typically a long, arduous process. It will be much harder to flip anyone from the "Sports betting is immoral!" crowd over the span of just a few weeks. 

This doesn't bode well for the immediate future of Georgia sports betting. More likely than not, the issue will need to be revisited during 2024 legislature sessions. And from there, Georgians won't have the chance to vote on any prospective measures until 2026. That, in turn, suggests sports betting in Georgia is two to three years from legalization—at the very least.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

Online Sports Betting may receive compensation if you sign up through our links. Rest assured, we avoid biases and provide honest opinions on sportsbooks. Read more here.