Sports betting legalization efforts in Georgia’s legislature failed Monday, marking yet another setback for sports wagering proponents in the state.
There was some hope entering Monday, which was Georgia’s legislative crossover deadline day, that House efforts would pass through to the Senate and Senate efforts would pass through to the House. Instead, all bills to legalize sports betting in Georgia died Monday. Hence, legal sports betting won’t come to Georgia in 2023, despite an appetite from some Georgians to use legal mobile sportsbooks.
Based on GeoComply information, many Georgians tried to access legal mobile sportsbooks in other states during the 2022 NFL season.
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) March 3, 2023
SR 140 and its enabling legislation, SB 172, aimed to legalize sports betting in Georgia through a constitutional amendment, but the resolution was shot down in the Senate early Monday afternoon. The legislative effort received 30 “yes” votes and 26 “no” votes, but it needed a two-thirds majority to move forward, since it was a constitutional amendment.
Sen. Bill Cowsert, who proposed SR 140, was adamant that legal sports betting should require a constitutional amendment — which would have sent the proposal to voters had it passed the legislature — in Georgia. Others believe that’s unnecessary, especially if sports betting becomes a lottery game. That topic has been debated throughout the legislative session.
“I don’t get why it’s wrong to let the people of Georgia vote on this issue,” Cowsert said. “We’re not little mini-dictators up here, dictating what the policy will always be.”
SB 57 failed to make it through the Senate late last week. That legislative effort focused on legalizing sports betting in addition to fixed-odds wagering on horse racing. The inclusion of horse-racing language likely cooled some legislators on the effort, which would not have needed a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting.
HB 380, a mobile-only sports betting bill that did not require a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting, was never discussed on the House floor Monday. That bill failed despite the support of the Sports Betting Alliance, which is composed of major sports betting operators, including BetMGM and FanDuel.
Try again in 2024?
Sports betting supporters will now have to wait until the 2024 legislative session to attempt to bring legal sports wagering to Georgia, and there will be several hurdles to clear.
In addition to intense debates about the need for a constitutional amendment, some legislators feel gambling poses moral issues. And there is concern that an increase in betting options could lead to increases in gambling addiction across the state.
“As much as it brings good, I think it brings bad,” Sen. Marty Harbin said Monday. “I think we need to be aware of that.”
Cowsert was conscious of potential problem gambling issues, as he emphasized the need for responsible gambling measures throughout the legislative process. He even received praise at a recent committee hearing from a national responsible gambling consultant.
Still, his measure (and others) fell short Monday. Expect those same responsible gambling concerns to pop up again in 2024.