Georgia Sports Betting Update: Inside The Final Days And A Look To The Future

Georgia Sports Betting Update: Inside The Final Days And A Look To The Future
Fact Checked by Nate Hamilton

The final day of the Georgia General Assembly session last week began with a glimmer of hope that Peach State voters would finally be able to decide whether to legalize online Georgia sports betting across the state in November.

That glimmer, though, waned throughout the day, and as the clock approached midnight late Thursday on the Georgia House of Representatives floor, it became apparent the issue would not come up for a vote. Once again, those hopeful that the state could join the 38 that have already legalized sports betting were forced to wait, just like they had to in previous legislative sessions. spoke with state Rep. Marcus Wiedower, R-Watkinsville, and state Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, after the session ended to discuss the final days of the session. Wiedower was the House member in charge of shepherding Dixon’s Senate Bill 386 and Senate Resolution 579, which was sponsored by state Sen. Bill Cowsert, through the chamber after both cleared the Senate earlier this year.

A message to Cowsert, an Athens Republican, was not immediately returned.

‘Just Not There Yet’

The final week of the session included three House Higher Education Committee meetings. During those sessions, Democratic committee members pushed for changes to dedicate funding for need-based college scholarships and pre-K programs from the proposed 25% tax on operator revenues.

Dixon told BetGeorgia that the state must identify new sources of revenue to fund educational needs. Thousands of young children sit on waitlists each year because there are not enough trained staff or adequate facilities for pre-K programs, he said. In addition, Georgia’s growing population is putting a tremendous strain on its college scholarship programs.

Both measures finally cleared the committee early Thursday morning, but they never came up in subsequent House Rules Committee meetings held later in the day. The Rules Committee is the panel charged with sending committee-approved bills to the floor for a vote.

A reason why it didn’t move, Wiedower said, was the mixed signals Republican leadership received from their Democratic colleagues. With Minority Leader James Beverly, D-Macon, not running for re-election this year, it appeared that some in that party were trying to make their move to become the next leader.

The Georgia House has 180 seats. A bill like SB 386 needs a simple majority to pass out of the chamber. A constitutional amendment, though, needs two-thirds support. With Republicans holding 100 seats in the chamber, both pieces of legislation were going to need bipartisan support in order to pass.

“It’s obviously super frustrating to me that that would have played a role in this when I worked as hard as I did to try to get them some things they wanted,” Wiedower said. “…I think that my leadership was uncomfortable pulling the trigger and not wanting (sports betting) to come to the floor if it wasn’t going to be supported.”

A message to the Georgia House Democratic Caucus was not returned Monday.

Wiedower, though, refused to blame the Democratic representatives for solely being the reason why neither SR579, a measure that would have put a constitutional amendment question on the November ballot, nor SB 386, the enacting legislation that would have created as many as 16 Georgia sports betting licenses, advanced. He added that there were still members from his party who were on the fence as well.

“From what I understand, the way it whipped a couple years ago to the way it whipped this year, we’ve definitely made some significant strides in getting support,” Wiedower said. “We’re just not there yet.”

The Future Of Georgia Sports Betting

As it stands now, Wiedower told that he intends to file a similar bill when the state legislature reconvenes next January for the 2025 session. That would include the constitutional amendment, which the Senate added to SB 386 when it passed in that chamber on Feb. 1. The Senate approved SR 579 later that month just before the General Assembly’s crossover deadline.

Dixon said he wants to sit down with Wiedower in the near future to learn what exactly happened in the House to help gameplan how to move forward with the measure.

“There may be more of an appetite after we get through the election cycle,” he added. “I need to sit down with my good friend and see where we’re at.”

One step lawmakers took in advancing the measures this year could keep them from making Georgia sports betting legal next year.

Retaining the constitutional amendment provision represents a “double-edged sword,” Wiedower said. It brought on additional support, including from Republican lawmakers, who he said were more comfortable giving their voters the right to decide on sports betting. However, it also carries a larger threshold to pass. That means voters would not be able to decide on the matter until the 2026 general election.

Last year, former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton issued an opinion stating sports betting did not need a voter referendum because it can be considered a lottery game. Georgia voters approved a state lottery in 1992, and measures that have been considered by the General Assembly listed the Georgia Lottery Corp. as the proposed regulator.

However, Wiedower believes the opportunity for that kind of standalone measure has passed.

“I feel like I had that momentum last year,” he told BetGeorgia. “And once the CA got introduced and momentum behind it, I don’t think that there’s any way I could go back to just enabling legislation without a CA.”

Dixon concurred, saying more senators got on board with SB 386 when Cowsert amended it to require a constitutional amendment. As a result, it would be “very difficult” to move forward without one.

The senator is also interested in adding regulations pertaining to fantasy sports, a measure that died in the House earlier in the session. He understands, though, that might meet with resistance from some in the sports betting industry.

“If we're going to pass sports betting, we might as well marry those two together and pass that language together,” he explained. “It would generate, I’ve heard several estimates from anywhere from $40 to $60 million, and that's a revenue stream we don't currently have without raising taxes.”

But, both Dixon and Wiedower added any sports betting measure moving forward would not move forward if it included language allowing casino or pari-mutuel games.

“At this point, I almost feel like it would feel like a damn miracle if I get sports betting,” he said. will be ready for sports betting in the Peach State whenever that comes. In the meantime, check out our expert reviews of the best Georgia sportsbook apps expected to come to the state once finally legal. 



Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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