Hopes for the legalization of sports betting in 2023 were seemingly killed when multiple bills failed to move into the opposite chamber on crossover day. Instead, House Speaker Jon Burns recently shared that legislators may try to tack sports betting language onto a different bill that successfully moved on crossover day.
A few days after Burns’ comments, the push to legalize sports wagering in Georgia is on once again. The Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee replaced language in HB 237 about designating an official soap box derby in Georgia with language that would legalize sports betting in the state. The bill passed out of committee by a vote of 8-1.
Ante up: A measure to designate an official Soap Box Derby in Georgia has now been transformed into a sports betting measure. The new bill, which just cleared a Senate committee 8-1, could reach a floor vote next week. #gapol https://t.co/4j3bF4tFhZ
— Greg Bluestein (@bluestein) March 16, 2023
On their soap box
Originally, the committee planned to keep language about the soap box derby in HB 237. That changed when an upset Rep. Leesa Hagan, the original bill sponsor, asked that her language be stricken from the bill.
“It’s hard for me to make a comment about a substitute I’ve never been shown,” Hagan said. “I don’t even have a copy of it here. … I don’t want my soap box derby to be associated with sports betting.”
Sen. Mike Duggan’s comments against the bill were more explosive.
“Whoever came up with this idea just set sports betting back five years,” Duggan said. “When you hijack a soap box derby and put sports betting on the back of it, every person who was on the fence in the state of Georgia has just now picked a side of the fence.”
Bill details, next steps
Under HB 237, the Georgia Lottery would regulate sports betting and tax revenue would fund education measures in the state. Adjusted gross revenue would be taxed at 22%.
Additional bill details were not immediately available, and the Senate committee rushed through discussion of the bill due to time constraints. HB 237 does not require a constitutional amendment to bring sports betting to Georgia.
Georgia’s legislative session is scheduled to conclude on March 29. Given the overhaul of the bill, the legislation will need to be approved by not only the Senate, but also the House again. That’s possible, but sports betting measures also just failed to pass through both the House and Senate earlier this month.
Has the appetite to approve legal sports betting shifted among state legislators that drastically in the last few weeks? Sen. Duggan doesn’t think so.
“Y’all can vote this out of committee,” Duggan said. “It will not pass on the floor, and I think everybody in here knows it won’t pass on the floor, and the damage you have just done to the sports betting industry by trying this is unfathomable to me.”