Senator Hopes Georgia Sports Betting Can Get Legalized in 2024

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Aug 8, 2023 12:00 AM
A Senator is hopeful Georgia sports betting can be legalized in the near future.

For the most part, updates on the future of legal sports betting in Georgia have typically skewed toward pessimistic. Though multiple bills that would legalize sports gambling have been proposed over the past few years, scant few of them gained any real traction. Very little appeared to change during 2023 legislative meetings, either.

At least one state senator is hopeful the Georgia sports betting discussion will change in 2024. The question we must ask: Is their optimism rooted in concrete knowledge? Or is it more just a general projection of what they’d like to happen?

Is Georgia Sports Betting on Track for Legalization in 2024?

Georgia Senator Bill Cowsert recently spoke with PlayUSA at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States conference in Denver. He was, of course, asked about the possibility of legal sports betting coming to The Peach State. Apparently, he believes Georgia’s legislature could feasibly get behind a sports wagering initiative—provided they stick to seeking legalization through a constitutional amendment.

Here is Senator Cowsert’s full response, via PlayUSA:

“I do think it’s going to simplify things. I think it enhances the likelihood of passage that there will be less incentive to try to work around the constitutional amendment. So I think people will try to sort out their differences and get a coalition together to get the two-thirds vote to get a constitutional amendment through.”

According to Georgia state law, the expansion of the gambling industry requires a constitutional amendment. That, in turn, necessitates an approval rating of at least two-thirds from every “legislative chamber.” Assuming a bill makes it through the House and Senate, it must then be slotted on to a general electoral ballot. At that time, the responsibility to push it through would rest with Georgia voters. 

That’s a fairly tall order to some people. Which is why certain legislative members argued that Georgia sports betting could be legalized without a constitution amendment and attempted to treat this past year’s negotiations as if that was a matter of fact.

The end result of this debate was, frankly, disastrous. Exactly zero sports betting bills made it out of the legislative chambers. It left many wondering whether sports gambling in Georgia was really as close as it seemed roughly one year ago. After all, there had been some key turnover during the 2022 elections. This suggested that legislative delegates would be more open to, if not outright keen on the idea. Yet, in the current divisive climate, it does not appear Georgia sports betting is on track for legalization in 2024

Why a Constitutional Amendment is Georgia’s Best Chance at Sports Betting Legalization in the Near Future

Despite Georgia’s, let’s say, murky outlook on sports betting, Senator Cowsert does lay the blueprint for an improved trajectory. Seeking a constitutional amendment does, in fact, seem like the way to go.

For one, traveling this path allows for voters to decide. The legalization of sports betting through the state lottery presupposes it is what constituents want. This is true when factoring in numerous polls over the years that more and more Georgians support legal sports betting. But it’s important that citizens feel like they have a voice. 

There’s also the chance that polls can be wrong. Just look at what happened with sports betting in California. At the start of 2022, it was considered a formality—something that was bound to happen, virtually no matter what. But then two separate bills made the 2022 general election ballot. The counter-messaging espoused by each grated on voters. In the end, California wound up vetoing both sports betting initiatives at the polls. 

This isn’t to say that’s what will happen in Georgia. California’s perception of sports betting only flipped when the issue became publicly adversarial between online operators and the state’s tribes. However, this does underscore the importance of a centralized approach. Perhaps California ends up legalizing a sports betting structure if there was only one, unified bill from which to choose. 

The attempts to legalize sports betting in Georgia without a constitutional amendment undermine any potential alignment. Not only that, but the issue was further decentralized by a third faction that sought to legalize both sports betting and fixed-odds horse racing all at once.

Georgia Sports Betting May Require Legislative Overhaul

With that amount of division among legislative members, it’s no wonder the conversation around sports wagering in Georgia so thoroughly deteriorated this past year. And that doesn’t necessarily bode well for the immediate future. Georgia’s policymakers must be on the same page, and it’s clear they have more than a few chasms they still need to bridge before settling on a more unified approach.

This isn’t even just a matter of narrowing the mechanisms through which Georgia sports betting gets legalized in 2024. Lawmakers also need to settle on rollout terms. Will they include fixed-odds horse racing? Will they legalize only in-person sports betting? If so, will they allow retail sportsbooks? Or will licenses be given exclusively to tribal operations?

Lastly, and potentially most critically, will the best online sportsbooks in the USA get the stamp of approval as part of any legalization? More and more states are going the open-market route, but tribes continue to hold a lot of sway. If it’s the difference between scuttling a sports betting bill altogether and getting an initiative on the 2024 electoral ballot, would policymakers default to on-site-only wagering?

These are all questions that must be answered, in one way or another, by the end of 2024 legislative sessions. If they’re not, Georgia sports betting will have no shot at legalization before…2026.

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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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