Georgia Sports Betting Bill Fails Yet Again...For Real This Time

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 27, 2023 12:00 AM
The latest Georgia sports betting push has officially failed.

After much hemming and hawing, the immediate future of sports betting in Georgia has finally reached a resolution. The outcome? Well, it won't please anyone who is in favor of amending the state's gaming laws. The latest Georgia sports betting bill has officially failed...for real this time.

Believe it or not, this "for real" qualifier is essential. The issue of legal gambling in The Peach State had been straddling both sides of the fence for some time.

Entering 2023 legislative meetings, there was optimism that Georgia would legalize sports gambling in 2023. That changed almost immediately. Lawmakers nixed a Georgia sports betting bill around early March. Many believed at that time the matter would stop there for the rest of the year and be revisited during the 2024 sessions.

But then, in a somewhat surprising twist, gambling supporters were able to attach a sports betting addendum to another piece of legislature. Given the urgency of their action, it seemed as if the push for Georgia sports betting in 2023 wasn't actually dead.

As it turns out, this latest attempt to green light gambling in The Peach State was nothing more than a last-ditch effort. And that 11th hour Hail Mary has officially fallen short. All that's left to ponder is why—as well as what's next.

Where Did It All Go Wrong for Georgia Sports Betting?

The initial outlook on Georgia sports betting in 2023 was fairly rosy. As Matthew Kredell of Legal Sports Report explains below, the state tweaked some old gambling legislation in a move that was deemed overwhelmingly positive but ultimately resulted in a whole lot of nothing:

"In March, Rep. Ron Stephens amended two gambling bills passed by the Senate in 2021, both approved by a House committee. One bill proposed a voter referendum to allow all types of gambling, while the other was enabling legislation for mobile and retail sports betting. However, SR135 was replaced and SB142 never made it to the House floor."

Oftentimes in these situations, people look for a singular moment or issue where it all went wrong. For Georgia sports betting, though, it wasn't just one thing. It was a whole bunch of problems.

Put simply, the matter of sports gambling proved too divisive across a vast array of topics. Officials couldn't agree on how the sports revenue would be dispersed. Nor could they reach a consensus on what types of gaming would be legalized. Some wanted Georgia to approve only in-person wagering. Others thought that this was a pointless and half-baked maneuver. Those in favor of mobile gambling argued that many Georgia residents are already betting with top online sportsbooks willing to accept their wagers, and that it remains financially irresponsible for the state to not oversee digital wagering in an official capacity.

The disagreements didn't stop there. Some officials wanted to implement gambling measures that required a constitutional amendment and thus needed to crack the 2024 general election ballot. Others, meanwhile, pushed for a version of legal gaming that could be folded into the current laws without necessitating a constitutional amendment. On top of that, Georgia sports betting continues to face moral opposition from government conservatives at every turn. These figures are fewer and further between in contemporary politics, but they still exist in heavy supply inside a Senate with Republican majority.

Why Didn't the Latest Georgia Gambling Bill Make It To The Senate Floor?

That last issue says more about why the latest Georgia sports betting bill failed to see the Senate floor than any other wrinkle in the process.

Since this gambling measure was proposed in an odd-numbered year, The Peach State's laws demand a three-fifths majority vote in its favor. Experts within the industry don't believe the Georgia Senate had anywhere near that many sports betting supporters. So, rather than vote on a bill that had no chance of passing, the state decided to punt on it altogether.

Still, there remained some semblance of support for sports betting inside both the House and Senate. That's why a subset of members tried tacking on gambling language to another bill—an initiative that was previously earmarked for soap box derby-related legislation. 

In the end, even the last-minute changes to the proposal, which included a different tax rate and revenue dispersal, weren't enough to sway Georgia sports betting detractors.

What's Next for Sports Betting in Georgia?

To answer this question bluntly: More of the same. This is to say: A whole lot of nothing. And waiting.

The state will not have an opportunity to introduce and vote on another sports betting bill until the 2024 legislative sessions. That all but means gambling cannot be legalized until 2026.

Contrary to more specialized initiatives, any sports betting proposal will likely entail a constitutional amendment. And that means Georgia cannot move forward without putting the issue on a general election ballot. If the House and Senate both approve a sports betting bill in 2024, there won't be enough time to place it on that November's ballot. The next general election after that won't take place until 2026.

Mind you, this assumes the state approves a sports betting initiative next year—or even in 2025. There's no guarantee that's the case. And before you default to "There's no way Georgia won't legalize sports betting by then," consider the most recent turn of events. When it comes to sports betting debates in the Georgia House and Senate, there are no such things as concrete assurances. 

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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