Georgia Lawmakers Miss Another Opportunity to Legalize Sports Betting

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Georgia Legislature has concluded its 2022 session Monday night without legalizing sports betting this year. SB 142 never made it to the House floor on Monday, the final day of the 2022 Georgia Legislature.

Georgia sports betting may not be legalized until 2024.

Rep. Ron Stephens led a late push to regulate sports betting and casino gambling in the Peach State, calling for a referendum to allow the measure.

SB 142 would have legalized as many as 18 mobile sportsbooks in the state.

What Happened on Monday?

Stephens believed the best way to legalize sports betting in Georgia was through a constitutional amendment, putting the question to state voters on the November ballot.

The disappointing development on Monday came a week after a House committee brought to life two bills that had been lying dormant since the Senate had passed them in 2021. Both bills awaited a potential House vote in 2022.

SB 142 would have legalized sports betting through the state lottery, and SR 135 would have put the sports betting question on the ballot in November.

The House refused to take up either of the measures.

Though the House Representatives did later approve SR 135, they did so after substituting it with a bill related to timber tax.

Georgian Lawmakers Waste Another Year

Georgian lawmakers have wasted 2022 the way they concluded 2021 when a last-minute sports betting push had failed.

Regulating sports betting in Peach State was an afterthought this session until Stephenson decided to amend both bills and introduce them to his committee March 28.

But many committee members cold-shouldered the bills, with a majority saying they were seeing the measures for the first time ever. Still, SB 142 and SR 135 were ready for the House floor. But the pieces of legislation could not make it, as Stephenson’s office was quiet following that committee meeting.

Even if The House approved Stephenson’s proposals, it was likely to face opposition in the Senate. The upper chamber had approved limited versions of those bills in 2021.

Why Legalizing Efforts in Georgia is Dragging?

Part of the reason is that the Georgia constitution – one of the strictest in the country – bans most forms of gambling.

Georgia lawmakers have endeavored to approve sports betting as a constitutional amendment, which requires a two-thirds majority vote as opposed to a simple majority vote. The Peach State’s traditional opposition to gambling has also proved to be a deal-breaker in the past.

Before Monday, SB 142 was amended to regulate sports betting through the Georgia Lottery – one of the only forms of gaming allowed constitutionally.

Passage would’ve needed nearly 38 fewer votes than a constitutional amendment. However, the measure could be legally challenged.

When Do We Expect Legalized Sports Betting in Georgia?

 If Georgia lawmakers want to legalize sports betting through voter approval, it can’t appear on the ballot until Nov. 2024 at the earliest. In that case, Georgia mobile sports betting may not launch until 2025.

Georgia lawmakers could try to legalize sports betting in 2023 without a ballot measure, which could lead to an earlier launch. But it is not clear if that initiative would get enough support.

Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston – previously not a fan of sports betting – told reporters, “There’s an appetite I haven’t seen before to do something.”

But Monday’s conclusion of this legislative session means legal sports betting is now years away. Even miraculous legislative support in 2023 could not pull legal Georgia sports betting before 2024. The Peach State’s lack of gambling structure means if it regulates sports betting in 2023, it’s going to take a while to launch the industry. Georgia does not have any regulatory structure many other states have in place to oversee their gaming industry, such as casinos and racetracks.

Georgia’s only border state with regulated sports betting – Tennessee – was also without any casinos when it legalized sports betting in 2019. But it took almost 18 months for the Volunteer State to launch its online-only sports betting in Nov. 2020.

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