Another year is about to pass in which are legal online sports betting in Georgia fails to materialize, and guess what? Georgia pro sports teams aren't happy about it.
Every professional franchise within the Peach State had been pushing to join the 30 other states already offering legal sports betting in the USA. The Atlanta Braves (MLB), Atlanta Falcons (NFL), Atlanta Hawks (NBA), and Atlanta United (MLS) were all on board with SB 142, the latest proposal that would have greenlit both online sports betting and in-person sports betting within the next year.
However, the latest legislative session this past spring started and finished without the House of Representatives even voting on SB 142, much to the dismay of sports betting enthusiasts and Georgia's pro sports teams. Now it looks like the state doesn't have a chance to legalize sports betting before 2024 or 2025—and that may be at the absolute earliest. This has only rankled those associated with Georgia's pro sports teams even further. To call them "absurdly disappointed" would not be an overstatement. It might even be a giant understatement.
This latest letdown has naturally left everyone in support of legal sports betting, including Georgia's pro sports teams, if there's a way of expediting a process that's gone nowhere for years. And yet, with the legislative sessions already closed, is there actually anything Georgia's pro sports teams or anyone else can do to change the state's hard-line stance against legal sports betting?
Why Georgia Sports Teams Want Legal Online Betting
As is the case for pro sports teams in other states, Georgia's collection of professional franchises stands to make a ton of money if betting gets legalized. Sportsbook operators are more likely to offer lucrative partnership deals if the teams can give them a pipeline to fans with the ability to sign up for accounts and place wagers. We've seen this happen in countless other instances. Some sportsbooks have even paid for the naming rights to arenas and stadiums.
Additionally, under the most recent Georgia betting proposal, SB 142, professional sports teams would have been granted the ability to set up kiosks at their venues. For those who may not know, these are essentially miniature digital sportsbooks at which patrons can electronically place—and collect on—wagers.
That money will add up. Multiple reports estimated back in 2018 that the four professional sports leagues across the United States—NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL—were set to make $4.2 billion combined off transactions related to legal sports betting. Mind you, this was four years ago when only a fraction of the United States was beginning to legalize sports gambling.
Fast forward to now, when 30 states have legal betting measures up and running, and that number, according to experts, could come in around $8 billion to $9 billion by the end of 2022. So, yeah, no wonder higher-ups at professional sports franchises have come out to voice their displeasure with Georgia's reluctance to legal sports betting.
Georgia Continues to Leave Money on the Table
Of course, it isn't only Georgia pro sports teams that are missing out on potential revenue. As the sports organizations themselves have been quick to note, the state is costing itself a boatload of money.
“I’m incredibly disappointed it didn’t happen again,” said Atlanta Braves’ president and CEO Derek Schiller said of Georgia's decision not to legalize sports betting this year, per Wabe.org. " “It’s time that we take it out of the shadows, we regulate it, and that Georgia benefits from it in the form of tax dollars."
While Schiller is no doubt motivated by his own franchise's interests, he's not wrong. Georgians still bet on sports even though they're not legally able to do so. Plenty of the sites that make the cut for our reviews of the top online sportsbooks allow people who live in the Peach State to set up an account and place wagers. There are also those in Georgia who use illegal in-person bookies or travel beyond state lines to gamble in places that allow sports betting.
Though it's tough to pinpoint just how much money the state is missing out on, Senator Jeff Mullis estimated at a committee hearing in early 2021 that Georgians spend around $4.8 billion wagering on sports with off-short sportsbooks, beyond state lines and outright illegally. And it turns out he was only factoring in actual expenditures; he wasn't including money earned from winning bets. That, in turn, means Georgia would take home $360 million a year in extra revenue if all of that money was wagered legally, assuming the previously proposed 7.5 percent tax rate is accurate.
Georgia Legal Sports Betting Anytime Soon?
Georgia sports teams may want to cover their eyes because there isn't much they can do to reverse course.
At this time, Georgia cannot push a sports betting bill through until the next legislative sessions, which won't take place for more than a year. And even if that next measure is successful, they still have to set up a regulatory system and go through the licensing and setup processes. All of that can take an additional year, if not longer, which is why most don't see legal sports betting hitting Georgia before 2024 or 2025.
Exceptions can be granted if the state elevates legal sports betting on its list of priorities. It isn't clear whether that's possible in this instance. It also isn't clear how much Georgia sports teams can impact that process, even if it is possible. Money has already been spent on lobbyists, and that hasn't done much.
As hard as it is to accept, this may all only be a matter of patience. Sports betting in Georgia is inevitable because it has become the United States standard. It just isn't imminent.
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