The Reason Georgia Sports Betting Legalization Failed in 2024

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 14, 2024 08:00 PM
The Reason Georgia Sports Betting Legalization Failed in 2024

Another Georgia sports betting bill has officially flopped. The fallout, as always, has people asking one question: Why?

In previous years, failure to legalize sports betting in Georgia has often come down to a lack of bi-partisan support. For most proposals, the approval of sports gambling in the Peach State will require a constitutional amendment. Successfully pushing through one of those demands two-thirds support throughout the House and Senate

That’s a lofty bar to clear. This year, however, looked like it might be different. With almost 40 states now offering some form of sports betting, the issue gained real steam entering 2024 legislative meetings. What’s more, the 2024 Georgia sports betting bill was a collaborative effort. Both Republicans and Democrats had a hand in cobbling it together. 

Yet, when the Peach State’s legislature adjourned at the end of March, it did so without approving a sports gambling bill for the 2024 electoral ballot this coming November. And while bi-partisan disagreements played a role in its demise, the driving force behind this failure remains unclear.

Or rather, it was unclear.

Georgia Sports Betting Efforts Flopped Amid Disagreements Over Constitutional Amendment

As we already mentioned, the legalization of sports betting in the United States normally takes place through a constitutional amendment. A bill will receive at least two-thirds majority support from the House and Senate, appear on a general election ballot, get approved by the state’s voters and then be signed into law. 

The reasons why states go this route rather than trying to circumvent it vary. Mostly, though, it’s easier to legalize online sportsbooks in the USA with a constitutional amendment. But you can green light sports gambling without a constitutional amendment—particularly if you’re not dead set on allowing top mobile betting sites in the United States from entering the market right away. 

It turns out this interpretation became a point of division among legislature members. As Pat Evans wrote for Legal Sports Report:

“The initial Senate proposal by Sen. Clint Dixon set up sports betting as a lottery game. Sen. Bill Cowsert, however, believes the issue requires a constitutional amendment and added the stipulation on the Senate floor. Industry stakeholders, as well as the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Georgia teams, supported the non-amendment route. Multiple sources suggested had stakeholders supported the constitutional amendment, it might have swayed enough House votes for passage. Earlier this year, former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton said gaming expansion does not need a constitutional amendment. That did not help unify opinions on the issue.” 

Though House and Senate members continued discussing the issue, none of the bills on the table ever advanced far enough through the chambers to seriously approach required approval.

Other Issues Rise to the Surface in the Peach State

To complicate matters even further, the division over how Georgia sports betting would be legalized opened the door for other issues to take hold. According to Evans, “religious right and responsible gambling advocates” seized the opportunity created by the delay to lobby on behalf of their own agendas.

Of course, these stakeholders have clout even when a sports betting bill is on a faster track. But their power increases exponentially when they have time and when sports gambling support is not a given

Remember, the 2024 Georgia sports betting initiatives were on thin ice in the first place. Additional bi-partisan support never once equated to automatic approval. 

Even before outside forces flexed their influence, the matter was assigned to the Higher Education Committee. That move was immediately seen as a death knell for the initiative. And this sentiment ended up accurate. The committee did not begin deliberating the bill until March 12, just a couple of weeks before the state legislature adjourned. They eventually approved it for the Senate Committee, but not until March 29th, leaving little to no time for a vote. And not surprisingly, there was no vote.

Will Georgia Try to Legalize Sports Betting Next Time Around?

After yet another failed effort to legalize Georgia sports gambling, could the state legislature punt on a follow up attempt when they meet again? It’s a ridiculous question on its face. 

So many states have already legalized sports betting. It could be well past 40 by 2026. And Georgia profiles as a premier sports betting market. Surely they won’t let the issue remain dormant. 

Then again, they might. Look at what happened with sports betting in California. After multiple failed bids in 2022, no bills wound up on the table in 2024. Georgia could follow that same path next year and look to revisit the issue in 2026—or later.

Granted, we don’t think the Peach State will sit completely idle. Sports betting legislation continues to fail, but it also keeps betting proposed year after year. And given that Georgia online sports betting garnered a ton of bi-partisan support in the Senate, specifically, it’d be genuinely surprising if the matter doesn’t remain top-of-mind.

Whether the next attempt to legalize Georgia sports gambling will be successful is a different story. House members from either political party need to make collaborative headway. That means finding common ground when it comes to the method of legalization. 

Constitutional amendment? No constitutional amendment? Georgia’s lawmakers appear split. If that doesn’t change anytime soon, the future of Georgia sports betting could remain in limbo for quite a while. Years, even.

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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...

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