Even with the Georgia Senate’s vote Thursday to pass a bill that would legalize online Georgia sports betting, the matter is guaranteed to be discussed in that chamber at least one more time this session.
By amending Senate Bill 386 to require a constitutional amendment for sportsbooks like FanDuel, DraftKings or BetMGM to be allowed in the state, the Senate will also need to pass a separate measure calling for that constitutional amendment to appear on this year’s ballot. State Sen. Clint Dixon, the Buford Republican who sponsors SB 386, said that measure would need to clear both the House and Senate by two-thirds majorities.
Given the 35-15 vote his bill received Thursday, Dixon told BetGeorgia.com in an exclusive interview that he believes they “have the horsepower” to pass that second measure, but he does not know if the House, which currently has 178 active members, can get two-thirds support.
He’s hoping they won’t need to, as he believes a constitutional amendment to ratify sports betting is “an unneeded measure” since the Georgia Lottery Corporation would oversee it.
If the House makes any changes to SB 386, the bill would go back to the Senate, which would either accept or reject those changes. If senators reject the House’s changes, then a conference committee would convene in hopes of reaching an agreement on a final bill that both chambers would support before the session concluded.
“We’re a long way from finishing,” he said. “There could be changes. The House could take that out. We could end up in a conference committee, which would probably be the most likely avenue that we’re headed in, dealing with an issue like this. That can be stripped out at any point, and so hopefully, we’re able to remove that at some point.”
On To The House
The next step for SB 386 is for the measure to be introduced to the House. That’s expected to happen on Tuesday. It’s a day later than usual because the Georgia General Assembly has canceled meeting on Monday due to a memorial service for the late State Rep. Richard Smith, who died Tuesday. Smith, R-Columbus, also served as the chairman of the House Rules Committee, but that vacancy is not expected to delay the handling of the bill in that chamber.
After SB 386 receives its first House reading, it will be assigned to a House committee. If that panel passes the bill, it will return to the House floor for a second reading. Then it goes to the Rules Committee before receiving a third and final reading in the House that would lead to a vote on the measure.
Tuesday will be day 15 of the 2024 regular session. The Georgia General Assembly is scheduled to meet for 40 days this year, with the final day set for March 28.
Delay Of Game?
Should the constitutional amendment remain in the bill and the question appears before the voters, it could certainly delay the launch of Georgia sports betting apps.
SB 386 calls for sportsbooks to be operational no later than Jan. 31, 2025, and Sen. Bill Cowsert, the Athens Republican who successfully amended the bill on the floor Thursday, did not change the effective date. That would give the Georgia Lottery 86 days between the Nov. 5 election and the bill’s deadline to get online sports betting up and running.
Kentucky needed 71 days from the time its sports betting law took effect on June 28, 2023, to open brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, but online operators did not launch in the Bluegrass State until three weeks later. And some in the gaming industry questioned why Kentucky was moving fast with its implementation.
Kentucky officials also benefitted from doing some work ahead of time as the bill to legalize sports betting was passed on March 30, and no constitutional amendment needing voter approval was necessary. That allowed the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to meet with regulators from other states to learn about their rules and best practices.
The North Carolina State Lottery Commission is currently implementing statewide online sports betting regulations. It, too, did not require a constitutional amendment. However, the bill Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law on June 14 was amended three months later by lawmakers during the budget process.
On Nov. 29, lottery commissioners set a Dec. 27 deadline for accepting applications from sports betting operators that wanted to launch on the first day wagering would be allowed. Last week, the state announced online sports betting would launch on March 11.
As Georgia continues its push to legalize sports betting, stay with BetGeorgia.com for the best Georgia sportsbook promos as soon as they are available.