Why Sports Betting in Georgia is So Hard to Legalize

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Why Sports Betting in Georgia is So Hard to Legalize

As things currently stand, legal sports betting isn't expected to hit Georgia until 2023 or 2024 at the absolute earliest. That is...a ways off. And it has many asking the same question: Why is sports betting in Georgia such a project to legalize?

Georgians aren't the only ones asking this question. Similar versions of the same query are being posed across the United States, including in places like Texas, Florida and even California. Many tend to believe the answer is simple. "Just get it done already!," is the most common refrain. But bringing legal sports betting to Georgia isn't actually as easy as surveying the rest of the country, seeing 35 states and Washington, D.C. have green lit its arrival and joining the fray.

There is a lot of red tape to clear when wading through the sports gambling debate. And that's assuming the majority of state residents and the local government are in favor of passing it. That may not be the case in Georgia.

Georgia Reluctant to Legalize Sports Betting for This Reason

If anyone was hoping for sports betting progress in Georgia during the latest legislative sessions, they were sorely disappointed. The most recent gambling initiative, titled SB 142, never even made to the floor of the House of Representatives for a discussion. 

While there are a variety of reasons for this, much of the opposition to sports betting in Georgia stems from a reluctance to amend the constitution. Currently, there is a provision within it that reads "all lotteries, and the sale of lottery tickets, and all forms of pari-mutuel betting and casino gambling are hereby prohibited; and this prohibition shall be enforced by penal laws." That type of language is ironclad. As a result, it requires wholesale rewrites, a move many states have previously been hesitant to endorse.

Of course, more than half of the United States now offers legal sports betting in some form. Various constitutions have been amended to make room for it, so it's not impossible.

In Georgia's case, however, a constitutional amendment isn't allowed merely by majority rule. It will be permitted only after two-thirds of each legislative branch agrees to put it on a ballot. And after that, the matter must still be settled by Georgia's residents. Without a majority of votes going toward a sports betting bill, it cannot be legalized, either.

Once more: These are not unprecedented obstacles. Other states, such as Illinois and Ohio, have needed to jump through similar hoops. It can be done. But that doesn't mean it has to be. Georgia still needs to gain the necessary support, both from their legislative chambers and residents. And it isn't presently clear whether they have the majority of either party.

How Many People Support Sports Betting in Georgia?

Getting through the legislative section of the approval process is mission critical for sports betting in Georgia to become a reality. Right now, only a minority of officials have come out to openly support it. That by itself is a red flag.

But experts believe that, on this subject specifically, government officials are more inclined to side with whatever their constituents want. Ergo, if Georgia's state officials know with absolute certainty their citizens will approve a sports betting bill on the ballot, they will be motivated to actually discuss putting one there. We're seeing the same logic play out in Texas to some extent. More and more government officials have voiced their support or openness to legal sports betting because polls show a majority of constituents are in favor of it.

This is where things get murky for the Peach State. A poll conducted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution less than two years ago showed that around 58 percent of voters supported sports betting in Georgia. That represents a majority—but not a huge one. Informal polls like this one have a fairly steep margin for error.

This, in turn, suggests any sports betting bill that might've appeared on the 2022 November ballot would've been more of a toss-up than a sure thing. And that explains why the House of Representatives didn't even bother to pretend considering it. They want sports betting in Georgia to be a lock, not a mere possibility that could fall through after they go through all the trouble of mapping out an infrastructure and setting up a licensing and rollout process.

The Future of Sports Betting in Georgia Remains Unclear

Sort through all of these warring logistics, and it's easy to understand why people don't expect sports betting in Georgia to even be available by 2024, let alone before then. The state won't have another opportunity to place a sports gambling initiative on a statewide ballot until then, and even if it passes, Georgia still needs to go through the implementation procedures, which can take over a year.Without a resolution in sight, people in Georgia are encouraged to check out our reviews of the top online sportsbooks. This list includes more than a handful of odds providers that will allow you to set up an account and process transactions like deposits, bet slips and withdrawals.

Aside from exploring alternatives, the only other thing left to do is wait for Georgia to change their tune—or journey across state lines to places in which sports betting has already been legalized.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that meets 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...

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