Legalization of Georgia Sports Betting Officially Nixed by Lawmakers...Again

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Mar 8, 2023 07:00 PM
Legalization of Georgia Sports Betting Officially Nixed by Lawmakers...Again

The push for the legalization of Georgia sports betting in 2023 has officially come to an end.

Yes, you are reading this correctly. Though many painted the issue of sports betting in Georgia as a mere formality entering this year's legislative sessions, there was always an air of pessimism hanging over the subject.

Various clues were sprinkled throughout ensuing debates, too. The turnover among key lawmakers this past election was cited as a deterrent. Then, just last month, it surfaced that one of the proposals sought to legalize Georgia sports betting without a general election vote. And now, it looks as if the entire discussion is dead for at least another year, if not potentially longer.

Despite the warning signs, this development nevertheless comes as a blow. Hope had indeed been mounting among supporters. Pretty much all of Georgia's sports teams advocated for the latest gambling legislation while Republican Governor Brian Kemp even expressed an openness to signing the bill. The latter, in particular, was seen as a game-changer. It represented a stark departure from Kemp's previous stances and suggested more in the Republican party would be on board with a shift in the state's gambling laws.

Alas, according to CBS in Atlanta, the Georgia "state Senate on Monday rejected a constitutional amendment that would have allowed voters to decide whether to legalize sports gambling, while the state House never took up a bill that would have authorized sports gambling without such an amendment." This essentially means the future of Georgia sports betting will be tabled until 2024. Let's break down the fallout from this decision, as well as what we can expect to happen next.

Why Georgia Sports Betting Failed in 2023

The high bar for sports betting legalization is part of the problem for Georgia. They didn't just need a majority rule to pass new legislation. If that were the case, sports betting in Georgia would be well on its way to legalization. Senators voted 30-26 in favor of the gambling initiative set before them.

Georgia, however, requires a two-thirds majority vote on this matter. That means the latest proposal, Senate Resolution 140, needed 38 supporters. It ultimately fell eight shy, which is discouraging for sports betting advocates, as it represents more than a 20 percent deficit.

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, there was a Georgia sports betting bill that would have legalized gambling on certain events without requiring a vote during the 2024 general elections. This course has been rare throughout the United States, but proponents argued that "voters already amended the constitution to allow a form of gambling when they approved the Georgia Lottery decades ago." This approach ultimately never gained traction. The bill in question, HB 380, was never even called to the Senate floor.

The root cause of this across-the-board failure? Differing opinions and agendas. Not only is the subject of gambling a divisive issue among a predominantly conservative Georgia government, but the parties involved can't even agree on how to utilize betting revenue or what types of gaming should be allowed. Democrats want sports betting to be used as a  "funding mechanism for needs-based college scholarships," which has received push-back from Republicans. Many lawmakers from both sides want the state to legalize casino gambling and horse racing, as well. Others don't. And finally, there remains a fairly sizable subset of officials who continue to reject the entire premise of sports betting because they're concerned about the impact it will have on gambling addiction throughout the state.

What's the Next Step for Sports Gambling Inside The Peach State?

This is a tough question to answer. But the results from the latest round of legislative meetings at least provide some context for what will happen next.

As of now, we can assume one of last year's biggest sticking points is no longer the primary roadblock. We are, of course, referencing online sports betting. Many officials previously favored in-person-only models to create more jobs in the casino and construction sectors. However, even skeptical lawmakers have started to acknowledge that the absence of online gaming is unrealistic.

Residents in The Peach State already have easy access to online gambling via alternative methods. For example, many of the websites that appear in our reviews of the top online sportsbooks will permit Georgians to create an account, bankroll and start placing bets within minutes. And if residents are going to place bets online no matter what, the state seems to have decided it might as well capitalize on the action.

Uniformity has since replaced online sports betting as Georgia's biggest obstacle. This year's platter of proposals created division among same-party ranks. That's a problem. As it stands, many Georgia Republics just outright oppose legal sports betting. That means the onus will fall on the Democrats to push a policy through. This year, though, Democrats were split between supporting the House bill that didn't require a constitutional amendment and the Senate proposal that did.

By the time the 2024 Georgia legislature meetings roll around, this must change. The Democrats need to be on the same page, championing a singular approach. Their philosophical dichotomy has already delayed Georgia sports betting at least another year. If they don't get their act together by 2024, The Peach State won't have a prayer of giving legal gambling the stamp of approval until after 2026.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one will work 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...

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