How is the legalization of Georgia sports betting proceeding? Not too peachy.
The process started in earnest in January 2021 when Rep. Ron Stephens led the presentation of House Bill 86 in the Georgia House. That bill would allow for six licensed online wagering entities in the state, but no betting on college sports.
A month later the state Senate, deciding not to wait until HB86 passed in the House, offered up Senate Bill 142, which was a lot like HB86, but allowed for wagering on college sports. Just not college sports involving Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State and other college teams based in Georgia.
One month after that, in March 2021, there was another change. Senate Resolution 135 was sent over to the House. Its purpose was to put the topic of sports betting in front of Georgia voters in November 2021 and allow them to vote on whether sports betting should be legal. SB142 also moved forward should Georgia’s voters voted to allow the betting.
As for HB86, that hit the wall, because some legislators didn’t want to support sports betting while other state legislators were trying to, according to the first set of legislators, limit voting rights in the state. That same month, the Georgia NAACP came out against sports betting and the state legislature went into recess. There was no sports betting referendum on the 2021 ballot.
Georgia Horse Racing First?
In February 2022, the legislature was back in session and talking about ... horse racing. At present, there is no horse racing in Georgia, but a proposal, supported by the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition, would allow up to five racetracks in the state. In March 2022, a state Senate committee passed SR131, which would put before Georgia voters the question of whether the state should allow horse racing.
The committee next passed SB212, which would allow for the start of a Georgia Horse Racing Commission if voters chose to legalize horse racing. But, just like the previous year with sports betting, you can guess what happened next. Nothing. When SR131 came up before the entire senate, it was taken behind the barn and shot.
At the end of March, Rep. Stephens tried again in the House with one bill on gambling in general and another on sports betting. Neither gained enough traction to pass before the Legislature adjourned.
Back to Square One?
So where is sports betting in Georgia? Some would say Tennessee, whichi borders Georgia and has an all-mobile sports betting market. Even though there was momentum heading into the 2022 legislative session, nothing was passed and there are no gambling measures for the 2022 ballot, meaning that the Legislature will have to take it up again in 2023. Then, if it should pass, there will need to be an amendment to the state constitution and an entire infrastructure put in place.
One of the issues slowing things down in Georgia is that the state has no tribal casinos, so legislation has to be created from scratch, and there has been no back-dealing between politicians and tribes as has occurred in other states.
Major proponents of legalized sports betting are the state’s professional sports teams, including the Braves, plus The Masters, and major casino/gaming companies.