With the re-election of Governor Brian Kemp, Georgia sports betting chances have officially suffered a major blow for the near future.
And maybe the long term, too.
To be sure, no single election winner is responsible for swaying legal sports betting in Georgia. Gambling initiatives are a collective, oftentimes collaborative, endeavor. They must pass through the House of Representatives and then the Senate before being signed into law or making a major election ballot. To that end, Kemp alone cannot erase Georgia sports betting chances altogether just because he's a conservative-leaning politician who doesn't support it. He can do a whole lot to block the next bill or generate counter support. But he cannot kill it on his own.
However, the Georgia state governor race was seen as the last great hope for sports betting. The state is lagging in so many other forms of support that they needed someone in office who would be more open to crafting legislation and working to get bi-partisan backing.
Now, without that person in office, there's no telling how long it could be before sports betting comes to Georgia.
Will Brian Kemp Change his Tune on Georgia Sports Betting?
Supporters of Georgia sports betting might want to cover their eyes. The answer to this question is not looking good. Brian Kemp is a known opponent of legal sports betting and hasn't shown any recent inclination to change his stance.
This is why his counterpart in the governor race, Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, launched a pro-Georgia sports betting campaign in her bid to win the election. Though she of course pointed out the financial upside of the move, it was also a calculated gamble. She took the opposing side of a divisive issue that clearly delineated her case from Kemp's re-election. The hope was that she would sway constituents on the fence in her favor and oust Georgia's Republican incumbent.
It worked. Sort of. Abrams received nearly 46 percent of the popular vote in Georgia during the November 8 elections. That's more than she was projected to receive at the outset of the race. But Kemp ended up garnering more than 53 percent of the popular vote and earned himself another term.
Expectations for Georgia's sports betting chances have now shifted throughout the industry. While some are crossing their fingers Kemp might change his tune now that his re-election isn't on the line, any about-face would represent a stark tweak in policy. Granted, politicians have made greater concessions. If Georgia voters start to seem overwhelmingly in favor of legal sports betting, Kemp may have no choice other than to adopt new views.
And yet, the fact that he ran on an anti-sports betting platform, even if implicitly, says a great deal. Meanwhile, the residents of Georgia have just said even more—and not just by electing him, either.
Recent Poll is a Further Blow to Georgia Sports Betting Chances
Within the past couple of weeks, a poll was conducted by the School of Public and International Affairs Survey Research Center at the University of Georgia. And for anyone who favors sports betting throughout Georgia, the results weren't good. Geoff Zochodne of Covers.com has the lowdown:
"[The poll] found that 45.6 percent of those it surveyed supported legalizing online sports betting sites in the southern state. The supporters slightly outweighed the opponents, as 42.6 percent of respondents said they opposed legalization and 11.8 percent said they 'don't know.' The statewide poll quizzed 1,030 likely voters in early September and late October on several issues and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points. The poll also found that 59.7 percent of those surveyed supported allowing casino gambling in Georgia, while 29.1 percent opposed it and 11.3 percent were unsure."
Technically speaking, more people in the poll said they supporting Georgia sports betting. But the 11.8 percent of people who were undecided is a large number. Not only that, but as the poll notes, only 40 percent of respondents actually said they supported Abrams' overarching views. That says a lot about which way the state leans on gambling by itself.
Sports Betting in Georgia Remains a Ways Off
There is one silver living to the latest news: Nearly 60 percent of people polled were in support of more flexible casino gambling laws. Georgia also already has a state lottery in place. And as many already know, both a lottery and flexible casino gambling laws are usually seen as stepping stones to legal sports betting.
But this doesn't have any immediate impact on Georgia's sports betting stance. They will need to enact more flexible gaming policies on the casino front before these views can be seen as progress. And who knows how long that will take?
For the time being, Georgians are better off traveling to neighboring states with legal sports betting to get their gambling fix. They also have the ability to join one of the sites that make it to our reviews of the top online sportsbooks. Most of these bookmakers allow people living in Georgia to set up and service accounts.
As for when Georgia sports betting chances might actually improve, we can't be sure. But unless the issue is given top priority at the next round of legislation discussions, the earliest Georgia can hope to bring legal sports betting stateside is probably sometime in 2026.
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