Legalizing sports betting in Georgia is a long-running saga in the legislature

And it’s already happening. Proponents say Georgians illegally gamble nearly $ 5 billion a year on sports. Georgians can open a sports betting website or app on their mobile phone and place bets on the games, most likely using servers overseas and bypassing Georgia’s laws that make the practice illegal.

Georgia’s Senate last year passed a law that would ask voters to approve online sports betting. The legislation went through several iterations in the House during this year’s legislative session and ultimately turned into bills asking voters if they supported the authorization of different forms of gambling. But they never came to the Chamber for a vote.

“The Senate only wanted sports betting and didn’t want to mess with anything else,” said House Regulated Industries President Alan Powell, R-Hartwell. “It’s kind of ridiculous for me to do it that way. If you are going to put it on the ballot, put them all, because gambling is gambling. “

As the measures weren’t approved before the end of the two-year legislative cycle, next year lawmakers will have to start over and aim to put it to a vote in 2024.

House Speaker for Economic Development and Tourism Ron Stephens, a Republican of the savannah who has supported all forms of gambling in Georgia, said he will continue to work to bring sports betting to the finish line.

“The silly thing is that people will do it anyway. For me it is a question of, n. 1, regulate it, which is a big deal, and tax it and get the revenue, “Stephens said.” We’ll try again. “

For most of a decade, supporters have been pushing the legislature to expand gambling to include casinos or horse racing. Following the Supreme Court ruling, a coalition of professional sports teams from Atlanta – the Braves, Falcons, Hawks and Atlanta United – have set their sights on online sports betting and lobbied lawmakers to pass a bill.

More than 30 states have or are in the process of establishing legal sports betting.

Advocates said sports betting could bring anywhere from $ 30 million to $ 100 million in revenue for the state. Critics said those numbers are exaggerated.

Supporters were unable to determine where the money raised should go. Options discussed include using the revenue to strengthen the merit-based HOPE scholarship, paying for needs-based scholarships, and funding rural health care and statewide broadband efforts.

The future of sports betting legislation in Georgia is unclear. Supporters have vowed to continue pushing to legalize the practice, while opponents have said they will continue to fight the expansion of any form of gambling, which they believe is immoral, addictive and leads to crime.

State Representative Wes Cantrell, a Woodstock Republican and pastor, has been an outspoken opponent of Georgia’s gambling expansion. He said that while sports gambling is the least concern of the three options discussed in Georgia, it is a “slippery slope.”

“It allows problem gamblers to play privately, which is the worst case scenario for them because they can do so in the privacy of their own home and bet their son’s rent money and college fund,” he said.

Mike Griffin, a lobbyist with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said gambling creates mental, financial and security problems for Georgians.

“Yes, it creates revenue, but it also creates other needs,” Griffin said. “Gambling is addictive just like heroin, opioids, alcohol and cocaine. … Sports betting is the most accessible form of gambling there is, which creates more problems – faster problems – and sometimes more devastating problems due to mental health problems and bankruptcy. “

Turnover among lawmakers looking to expand the game will also shape the future of the effort. Senate Rules Chair Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, who sponsored Senate legislation that walked out of the House last year, is not seeking re-election.

State Senator Burt Jones, a Republican from Jackson who also sponsored the sports betting bills, is not seeking re-election, but is running for lieutenant governor. One of the Lieutenant Governor’s roles is to preside over the Senate and call legislation in the courtroom for debate.

“I’m still in the same position to support the online sports betting piece of (gambling expansion),” Jones said. “Obviously, as a lieutenant governor, you don’t carry bills, but if someone brought it and it was assembled properly, I would definitely allow them to take the floor for a vote. And I think it would pass. “

Charlie Bailey, who won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor on Tuesday’s ballot, also said he was in favor of legalized sports betting.

“We have to regulate it well and tax it,” he said. “And use that money to … pay for pre-K education and pay our teachers with raises, not one-time bonuses, and to make technical college free.”

Ryan Graham, the libertarian candidate in the November ballot, also said he was in favor of it.

“Sports gambling occurs, regardless of the law, and has much worse results when it is illegal,” Graham said. “Either we give sports betting to organized crime and scammers, or we allow peaceful people to spend their money in a legal economy.”

Key dates in the discussion in Georgia on sports gambling:

  • May 2018

    The US Supreme Court ruling overturned federal law restricting sports gambling, strengthening efforts in Georgia and other states.

  • November 2019

    The presidents of the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks, and Atlanta United formed the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance and sent a letter to state lawmakers asking them to legalize online and mobile sports betting.

  • February 20, 2020

    State Senator Burt Jones, R-Jackson, has tabled a bill that aims to authorize the Georgia Lottery to operate an online sports betting system that would benefit the state’s HOPE scholarship.

  • June 19, 2020

    A Senate jury voted to resurrect a proposal that would allow mobile sports betting in Georgia.

  • February 2, 2021

    Legislation that would legalize online sports betting – House Bill 86 – was easily overruled by a state chamber panel in a move aimed at expanding the game without the constitutional amendment that is usually required.

  • March 5, 2021

    The Georgia Senate passed legislation – Senate Resolution 135 – that could legalize online sports betting in the state. The senators also voted to pass Senate Bill 142, which regulates how sports betting would be conducted in the state.

  • March 31, 2021

    Senate Resolution 135 was slated for courtroom debate in the House, withdrawn from the calendar, amended, and sent back to the courtroom multiple times, but House Democrats refused to support the measure and there was not enough Republican support to revive it. .

  • March 18, 2022

    A proposal to allow voters to decide whether horse racing betting should be legal in the state did not come forward by the Senate before the crossover expires.

  • March 28, 2022

    Attempts to expand legalized gambling in Georgia resurfaced when legislation passed by the House panel – Senate Resolution 135 – that would ask voters to allow “sports betting and other forms of betting and gambling.” The committee also passed Senate Bill 142, which would now create a Georgia Sports Betting Commission to operate an online sports betting system if the constitutional amendment were to pass.

  • April 4, 2022

    Lawmakers have rejected a belated effort to allow online sports betting. The bill failed to cancel the House Rules Committee, which sets the agenda for full House voting.

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