Just before 10 p.m. EST Tuesday night, the Georgia Governor’s Race was called for Republican Brian Kemp, who defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams in what can safely be called a blow to potential Georgia sports betting. Kemp garnered 53.4% of the vote (just over 2.1 million total) over Abrams, who received 45.9% of the vote.
The decision provided another setback for Georgia when it comes to legalization in the state. Abrams was one of the key advocates for bringing sports gaming to the Peach State, with campaign advertisements throughout the ongoing college and NFL football season as a central part of her campaign. Those television ads explained that residents of the state were still placing bets but were traveling beyond Georgia state lines — like to neighbor Tennessee — to make them.
“Brian Kemp blocked sports betting in Georgia, letting tax dollars go to other states. So, when states like Georgia win the bet, states like Tennessee get the tax money,” one Abrams campaign advertisement on Twitter said. Abrams’ plan to bring sports betting to Georgia called for a 20% tax rate for online sportsbooks (the same as in Tennessee), in addition to licensing fees, and the Georgia Lottery Commission would be in charge of monitoring the state’s sports betting websites.
However, Abrams was facing an uphill challenge as election day approached.
The Democratic nominee trailed Kemp in the polls by double-digit percentage points in October, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.
Was Georgia Ready for Sports Betting?
As Georgia prepared to vote, another poll showed the state’s timidness when it came to the legalization of sports gaming.
As BetGeorgia reported prior to election night, a Georgia News Collaborative-commissioned poll from October showed that only 45.6% of likely voters that were surveyed were in favor of legally placing sports wagers online.
Another 12% did not have an opinion on the issue.
In contrast, 60% of likely voters were in favor of gambling in casinos.
What’s Next for Georgia Sports Betting?
It would appear more road trips are in the future for Georgia sports bettors looking to wager on sports.
Multiple professional sports franchises in the state — including the Braves (MLB), Hawks (NBA), Falcons (NFL) and Atlanta United (MLS) — have voiced their support for sports betting when they formed the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance.
The efforts from that alliance between the professional franchises came up empty, along with legislation in each of the last two years. Despite bipartisan support for Senate Resolution 135 (ballot measure on legalized gambling restrictions) and Senate Bill 142 (asking voters to allow online sports betting but stop other types of gambling), each failed last spring without advancing to the House of Representatives.
Georgia has no tribal casinos, so legislation that involves sports betting would have to be constructed and the state’s constitution would need to be amended with support from two-thirds of each legislative chamber. Kemp, an Athens native, has remained neutral over the sports betting issue.
“I’m at the same place I’ve always been. To be able to do that here, it’s gonna take a constitutional amendment. It doesn’t really matter what the governor thinks, you can’t veto a constitutional amendment,” Kemp said in August, according to WABE News in Atlanta.