Georgia lawmakers, led by Rep. Ron Stephens, are pushing toward legalizing retail and online sports betting with one week remaining in the state’s legislative session. On Monday, Stephens spoke in front of a House committee about a sports betting bill and ballot measure originally proposed in 2021.
Both the sports betting bill, SB 142, and the proposed ballot measure, SR 135, passed through the Georgia House Economic Development and Tourism Committee Monday afternoon. SB 142 sets up the regulatory structure for legal sports betting in the state, while SR 135 would put sports betting on the November ballot to give voters a chance to legalize it. Monday’s moves pave the way for legal sports betting in Georgia, but more steps need to be taken before the legislative session concludes on April 4.
Gambling Is Back At The Georgia State Capitol
The Georgia State House Economic Development & Tourism Committee is meeting now.
New version of SR 135 is expected to be a November voter referendum on all gambling.
— Rahul Bali (@rahulbali) March 28, 2022
Upcoming timeline for the legislation
Discussion about the ballot measure and bill took about two hours Monday, as some committee members were uneasy about the possibility of legalizing sports betting. A few committee members voiced concerns about increased gambling addiction and taking advantage of desperate people trying to turn a few wagers into large sums of money.
Some mentioned wanting to avoid “suffering” brought on by gambling. Others simply seemed to want more time to look over the bill and information provided by Stephens before making any decisions.
On the flip side, supporters of the bill argued on behalf of the tax revenue from legalized sports betting, which would be earmarked to benefit education. Those supporters felt that considering the active offshore betting market, it makes sense to ensure some of the dollars being wagered return as tax revenue to Georgia.
While the debate lasted hours, eventually the votes were there for the bill and ballot measure to advance out of the committee. Stephens appeared to fist bump a colleague following the approvals.
If Stephens wants legal sports betting to make its way onto the November ballot, he’ll need the respective pieces of proposed legislation to receive both House and Senate approval in the next week. The likelihood of that is unclear, but there’s at least a path forward for Stephens’ bills.