In early January, there was hope — and perhaps even an expectation — among supporters that 2022 was Georgia’s year to legalize sports betting.
That hope won’t become reality.
The state’s 2022 legislative session concluded Monday, and lawmakers couldn’t come to terms on sports betting legislation. Rep. Ron Stephens led a late push to legalize sports wagering in Georgia, but last week’s efforts ultimately fell short.
Stephens was among those who believed the best path forward was using a constitutional amendment that would put a sports betting legalization question to Georgian voters on the November ballot. His plan didn’t quite work out, however, as SR 135, the proposed constitutional amendment, was gutted and substituted with a bill related to timber tax Monday.
“This S.R 135 has nothing to do with gambling.”
State Rep. Sam Watson says the measure asking voters whether to legalize casinos/sports betting/horse racing, was gutted and replaced with a bill dealing with trees. #gapol
Old gambling measure: https://t.co/I6LQrK6HoC https://t.co/3nHiucOwNK
— Beau Evans (@beauvans) April 5, 2022
It’s another disappointment for Stephens and other proponents, who have tried previously to legalize sports betting. The group of supporters included the state’s professional sports teams, which often cite fan engagement as a reason for wanting legal sports betting in the state.
Legal sports betting could be years away
If politicians like Stephens want to follow a similar path and again propose a constitutional amendment, it wouldn’t appear on the ballot until November 2024 at the earliest. That could postpone any active mobile sports betting until no sooner than 2025. Lawmakers could try to approve sports betting in 2023 without a ballot measure, potentially leading to an earlier timeline, although it’s unclear if that initiative would garner the necessary support.
The timeline for potential legalization offers a reality check from only a few months ago, when Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston told reporters, “There is an appetite I haven’t seen before to do something.”
But now, with legal betting likely years away in Georgia, expect to see plenty of Georgians continuing to use illegal offshore betting options. Of Georgia’s neighbors, only Tennessee has legal mobile sports betting. North Carolina could legalize online betting soon, but neither trip is particularly convenient unless you live near the border, as the drive from Atlanta to Chattanooga, for example, is nearly two hours.