Legalized sports betting continues to gain more and more support throughout the United States—so much so that it feels like only a matter of time before it becomes standard in every region. With that said, there continue to be plenty of holdouts, including the state of Georgia. And given that they've once again turned down an opportunity to legalize sports gambling, it could be years before they change their minds.
Everyone waiting for legal sports betting in Georgia better not hold their breath. In fact, they may be better off not thinking about the topic whatsoever. Because as it turns out, legal sports betting may not hit Georgia until 2024...or later.
This isn't meant to be unnecessarily doom-and-gloom. It's simply a matter of fact. While legal sports betting in the USA is now a majority concept, Georgia continues to stand among the most stubborn holdouts. More than that, they've yet to hint at any harbinger of change.
The most recent 2022 sports betting bill never even made it to the House of Representatives for a discussion. It was instead tabled altogether and is now set to collect dust for not just another year but potentially two or more.
Let's break down what it all means.
Georgia Sports Betting Bill Dies without Discussion
The latest Georgia sports betting bill, titled SB 142, was scheduled for discussion at the most recent legislative session. Under the terms of the proposal, there would have been 18 online sportsbooks awarded licenses and the ability to operate within state lines. Another betting bill on the table, SR 135, was also slated for debate. It dealt specifically with on-site betting at casinos and kiosks.
Both of the bills—SB 142 and SR 135—were considered relatively long shots. Incumbent officials throughout Georgia have mostly shown very little interest in the legalization of sports betting. Of the two, however, SB 142 was deemed to have a better chance of getting through. It required a lower lift from the state to implement not only because it didn't deal with physical betting locations, but the list of sportsbook operators was pre-approved, which theoretically made for an effortless transition—or at least close to it.
But as it turns out, none of this mattered.
Out of the 40 days that the Georgia legislature met, sports betting was hardly a topic of discussion. SB 142 received minimal attention, and SR 135 didn't even make it to the floor at all.
It was a surprise development even for a state that hasn't been enthusiastically considering the subject. Some have attributed the complete absence of discussion to last-minute addendums made to both SB 142 and SR 135 by Representative Ron Stephens. Many members of the Georgia Legislature said they didn't even know about the changes until the final days of the meetings. Still, both bills were deemed ready for the House of Representatives floor anyway. They only needed to be ticketed as a priority. And they weren't.
What Happens to Sports Betting in Georgia Now?
Get comfortable, folks. There are very few options here.
Special meetings and votes can be called upon for urgent matters, and sports betting bills have fallen under this category in various other states over the years. But the relative lack of interest from the Georgia government to even discuss sports betting legalization, let alone actually pushing it through to the Senate, suggests such exceptional measures won't be taken. And even if they are, the bill still has to go through the Senate, which historically doesn't take kindly to having sudden issues that were already supposed to be resolved thrown onto their plate after the fact.
More likely than not, these sports betting bills—or new ones that come after–won't become a topic of conversation until the next legislative session, which won't take place until 2023. On top of that, because the addendums to SB 142 called for a new regulatory system to be put in place once sports betting was legalized, Georgia's rollout for online wagering is expected to take longer than most.
Initial projections have the state needing around 18 months to assemble and test a new regulatory system. That meant sports betting wouldn't hit Georgia until the end of 2023 if it were approved in the Spring of 2022. Now that it remains on the shelf, the absolute earliest Georgia will get legalized sports betting up and running is the middle to end of 2024.
Is Georgia Making a Mistake with Sports Betting?
How you feel about Georgia's approach to sports betting likely depends on how you feel about the issue itself. If you're against sports betting, you probably don't care that Georgia hasn't made it a priority; if you're pining to check out reviews of the top online sportsbooks and begin betting from Georgia in earnest, you're going to despise how they've botched the opportunity to even debate the legalization of online wagering.
Financially speaking, though, there is no debate here. Georgia is missing out on a ton of potential tax revenue.
Experts have pegged Georgia's first-year sports betting revenue at somewhere between $600 and $675 million dollars. Assuming a 20 percent tax rate, as many other states have implemented, we're talking about tens of millions of dollars, a large chunk of which would be funneled to various educational initiatives. That money, and the causes it can go to, are why we'd fully expect sports betting to get legalized in Georgia eventually. The question of "when?" can't be answered. But if sports betting throughout Georgia is legalized before 2024, something dramatic within the state has changed.
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