Georgia, a state with no legal gambling other than a successful and popular state lottery, has flirted with legalizing online sports betting for the past several years.
Legislative efforts are currently ongoing in 2023 with numerous bills introduced in both the Georgia House and Senate. But several obstacles remain before bettors in the Peach state will be opening their sportsbook apps to place a wager on the Braves or Falcons.
This is the place to find information on the history of gambling in Georgia (or lack thereof), the latest legislative efforts to legalize online sports betting in the state, and what a potential legal market could look like. Let’s get started.
GA sportsbook alternatives
Georgia does not yet have legal sports betting, but there are still exciting alternatives available. A variety of options are available from the operators listed below, including player props, pick’em games, and over/unders.
Georgia sports betting legislative outlook in 2023
The Georgia legislature is currently in session for 2023 and they’ve been tossing around three separate bills that each could pave the way for legal sports betting in the state. We’ll be watching closely through the end of March when the session ends.
Let’s take a look at the current bills that are making the rounds and where they currently stand. Remember, for sports betting to take flight in Georgia only one can succeed, but only one needs to succeed.
GA House Bill 380
A few weeks after SB 57, a second sports betting bill surfaced in Georgia: HB 380. HB 380 calls for 16 mobile betting licenses in addition to five retail licenses. It also undercuts the proposed 20% tax rate of SB 57, targeting a more reasonable 15% rate, and also calls on the state lottery to take over regulatory duties.
Similar to SB 57, GA House Bill 380 does not rely on passing a new constitutional amendment – meaning there is a more direct route to success with just a simple majority vote.
House committee hearings are currently scheduled for HB 380. We’ll keep you posted with any developments.
GA Senate Bill 172
SB 172 differs from the two aforementioned bills in that it is the lone proposal currently in still in circulation that does require an amendment to the Georgia state constitution. Committee hearings are scheduled for SB 172, although at this time it seems unlikely that this is the way that Georgia will choose to go. Stay tuned.
GA Senate Bill 57 – FAILED
Introduced in February 2023 and sponsored by Billy Hickman, SB 57 progressed through the Georgia legislature. On February 21st the Senate Economic Development Committee voted 8-1 to pass SB 57. Next up? A GA State Senate vote.
The goal under SB 57 is to classify sports betting as a “lottery game”, placing it under the jurisdiction of the Georgia Lottery Corp. Therefore, a constitutional amendment would not be required to pass SB 57.
SB 57 looked to permit up to 18 mobile sports betting licenses in the state of Georgia. Of those 18 licenses, 9 would be set aside for in-state professional sports franchises, plus NASCAR and the PGA. One Georgia online sports betting skin would be permitted per license. A GA sports betting license could be purchased for the low, low price of $100,000, with an annual renewal fee of $1M. The tax rate would be set at 20%. Wagering on in-state college teams would be allowed.
Keep an eye on the SB 57 horse racing provision
SB 57 experienced relatively smooth sailing until its final senate vote. A provision surrounding horse racing ultimately cause problems that derailed the bill. When opened to public comment there were numerous objections to the bill’s inclusion of fixed-odds horse wagering, and the creation of state-sanctioned racetracks. Amongst others concerns, worry over potential physical harm being done to the horses were raised.
SB 57 falls short
On March 2, 2023, SB 57 failed in its attempt to pass in the Georgia Senate. The result of the vote was 37 NO, to 19 YES. A simple majority was needed. The inclusion of horse racing within the bill was a controversial decision. In fact, much of the discussion of the bill centered around horse racing specifically as opposed to sports betting. If Georgia is to move forward with legal sports betting in 2023, one of the other proposals will need to get it done.
SB 57, which would have legalized sports betting in Georgia without using a constitutional amendment, failed on the Senate floor.
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) March 2, 2023
Will GA sports betting require a constitutional amendment?
Much of the discourse on sports betting in Georgia revolves around whether or not a constitutional amendment will be required. It seems to have been assumed that an amendment would be necessary. Rep. Ron Stephens, one of the larger proponents for legal betting in GA, proposed a constitutional amendment at the end of 2022, but it ultimately fell short.
In 2023 however, experts have been floating the idea of standalone sports betting bills which would only require a simple legislative majority – no amendment. If the state ultimately requires a constitutional amendment, the task gets far more complicated. Instead of a simple majority, they’ll need to have the support of 2/3rds.
The Georgia Constitution does not stand in the way of the legislative authorization of sports betting. It prohibits only 3 categories of gambling — casino gambling, pari-mutuel betting, and privately-operated lotteries (with a carve-out for the state-operated lottery). pic.twitter.com/7n4DfH6N6b
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) February 1, 2023
Factors to consider for Georgia sports betting
Because of Georgia’s history of opposition to legalized gambling, proponents of casino and sports betting in the state have always had an uphill battle to convince leaders that it’s time.
For years now developers and casino executives have been dazzling local and state government officials with exciting presentations of casino resorts and the robust tax revenue they would surely provide. The problem they have faced is that any expansion of gambling in the state would require a public vote by referendum.
Opponents of gambling haven’t had much trouble rallying people to their cause. Religious opposition in particular argues that any sort of gambling is immoral and will lead to societal problems. It’s just not worth the additional tax revenue, they say.
Since a large segment of the Georgia population is religious, this argument carries a lot of weight. The people haven’t wanted casinos in their state or local community.
But here’s the catch: online sports betting legislation doesn’t need casinos. It would simply legalize something that people have been doing illegally for decades. Plus, the resulting tax revenue would help even more young people in the state further their education.
Past Attempts for Georgia Legislation
In early 2021, hope for legalized online sports betting among supporters was running high. Rep. Bill Stephens introduced a bill, H.B. 86, that would authorize online sports betting with the state Lottery Commission being the regulator.
Operators would be taxed at 14 percent and proceeds would go toward education programs, similar to the state lottery. This seemed like a reasonable bill that would classify sports betting as a lottery-style game in order to avoid the need to put the issue to a public vote. Similar legislation was introduced in the Senate.
Democrats are withholding votes over other issues as bills head to conference committee.
Where it stands- https://t.co/6hLXq8vSnV
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) March 29, 2021
Past Progress in the Senate
It’s true that similar legislation was introduced in the Senate, and original legislation was modified after a committee hearing. Now is far from the lottery-regulated model advocated by Rep. Stephens. Senator Bill Cowsert had originally proposed that the state Lottery Commission regulate online sports betting.
After conversations and additional feedback he changed his mind. Now he believes that it would be a “stretch” to call sports betting a “lottery game”. His new strategy is to pass legislation that would present a referendum to Georgia voters in November 2022 asking them to amend the state constitution to legalize sports betting.
If the voters approve the referendum, the state would proceed with creating a regulatory structure for online sports betting in the state. Operators would then apply for licenses and, once approved, sports betting would likely go live in the state sometime in 2023.
Several politicians and lobbyists believe the state will legalize sports wagering soon.
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) February 7, 2022
While both the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans, some conservative state legislators are consistently opposed to any legislation that would expand gambling in the state. As such, Republican legislators who support online sports betting must rely on the support of their Democratic counterparts to ensure passage of the legislation.
Because of this, Democrats have leverage, and can hold up sports betting legalization and other Republican priorities in order to support or oppose bills that are of importance to them.
Access to the voting issue
One controversial issue of importance to both parties in the state is access to voting. Republicans want to limit access to voting. They also want to ensure that the voting process is, in their opinion, secure and free from undue influence.
Democrats in the state vehemently opposed these legislative proposals. They are saying that any limitations on access to voting will disproportionately affect minorities. As such, they have decided to withhold their support for pending bipartisan legislation, including Rep. Stephens’ sports betting bill.
This previously unforeseen development was a big problem for efforts to bring online sports betting to the state in 2021 and 2022.
The latest Georgia news
Georgia Sports Wagering Legalization Efforts Officially Dead For 2023
A last-ditch effort to legalize sports betting in Georgia proved fruitless, as the Senate didn't even vote on HB 237.
Georgia Senators Hope To Create Wagering Study Committee
A state Senate committee proposed in Georgia would be tasking with reporting by the end of 2023 on prospects for legalized gambling.
Missouri House Sends Legal Sports Betting Bill To Senate
For the second consecutive year, a bill backed by the industry in Missouri heads to the Senate. Last year, it was killed by filibuster.
Potential Georgia online sportsbooks
It remains to be seen whether a resolution can be reached that will result in online sports betting in the state within the next year or so. Even if legislators don’t end up coming to an agreement, it is reasonable to assume that online sports betting will make its way to Georgia at some point in the future.
When it does, this information about all the potential rules, operators, and banking options available will help you be ready to open an account and start betting.
Neighboring Tennessee went live in 2020 with an online-only model. It became the first state to offer online sports betting without any retail casinos. Since Georgia has been exploring a similar model, the eventual lineup may end up looking quite similar. Potential GA sportsbook operators include (but aren’t limited to):
Possible rules for GA betting
Talking about the potential rules of sports betting in Georgia may be a bit of a stretch at this point in time, but let’s go for it anyway. These potential rules come from the sports betting legislation that has been introduced so far in 2021.
Many of the proposed rules are standard in every state, so they will likely be included in whatever regulatory structure ends up in place in Georgia.
Operators will be required to have procedures in place to allow people to exclude themselves from using their service and/or place limits on amounts wagered. Responsible gaming is extremely important within the legal iGaming industry.
Bettors in the state must be 21 or older to legally place wagers.
3) Located in the state
Bettors must be physically in the state of Georgia to legally place a wager. This is determined by using geolocation software. You can download it onto your laptop or authorize it on your smartphone.
Anyone physically present in the state can bet; you don’t have to be a resident of Georgia to create an account and wager. This is good news for the millions of people traveling through the state on I-95 or I-75, or who are there on a layover at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
4) Remote registration
It is likely that online registration will be the norm. This one seems obvious… if there are no casinos in the state, how could you even register in-person? Good question, but remote vs. in-person registration is still an issue, even in 2021.
In-person registration is required in some states, including Nevada and Illinois (remote registration is temporarily allowed in IL because of COVID restrictions in the state).
5) Online-only wagering
Brick-and-mortar casinos are not expected to come to Georgia anytime soon, so there will not be any casino partnerships in the state. HB 380, which we discussed above, proposed to legalize mobile sports betting only. Casino companies that offer online sportsbooks (Caesars, MGM, etc.) will likely enter the market, but that will be the extent of their presence in the state.
SB 57 has included the possibility of retail sports betting options along with mobile betting.
6) Betting on college teams
This one is a bit murky. Rep. Stephens’ bill prohibited betting on any college sports altogether, not just Georgia-based teams. Senator Cowsert’s original bill allowed betting on college teams outside of Georgia.
All that said, it is reasonable to assume that bettors will be unable to bet on the Bulldogs or Yellow Jackets if/when sports betting comes to the state. This stipulation serves to protect local, amateur athletes from external pressures. Regardless, It would be a big miss if college football betting was not allowed in the state of Georgia.
Offered markets and bet types
The number of different sports offered by the online bookmakers operating in Georgia is potentially…all of them! Why not? Sportsbooks already offer wagering opportunities on sports all over the world, from cricket to darts to rugby.
In 2-3 years there may be even more sports to bet on. Let’s shoot for the stars! Expect all mainstream U.S. offerings, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, etc., plus plenty of niche items.
As for types of bets offered, this will likely be determined by the future regulatory body in the state. Most states include types of bets allowed in their official rules and regulations, so operators in Georgia would likely be authorized to offer most or all of the following bet types:
Options for deposits and withdrawals vary by state, but the most common banking methods include:
- Credit/debit cards
- Electronic bank transfer
- Online mobile payment systems (PayPal, etc.)
- Other methods approved by the operator (branded prepaid cards, etc.)
- Old-fashioned paper checks
You may be able to get on the phone with a customer support representative at an offshore sportsbook, but what motivation do they have to solve your problem? They already have your money. You have no recourse if they don’t resolve the issue you called or emailed about. There is no regulatory agency to register a complaint with.
Compare that with a legal, regulated sportsbook. They are highly motivated to solve your problem because if their customer service is not up to your standards, you have the option to withdraw your money and take your business elsewhere. And they are required to cash you out under the rules in which they operate.
Legal sportsbooks generally have excellent customer service. They are usually able to resolve even the most complicated issue because they want to keep your business. As their primary communication methods, legal online sportsbooks use:
- phone support;
- live chat;
Why use a legal sportsbook?
Georgians are already betting on sports, either by going through a local bookie or using an offshore online operator.
A few folks in the northern part of the state may run over to Tennessee on the weekends to get their bets in. However they are doing it, let’s not pretend that it isn’t happening. Many people want to legally bet but are currently unable to do so.
There are many reasons why bettors should use a legal online sportsbook for their wagering. True, that isn’t possible in Georgia right now, but it is in other states and will be one day in the Peach state. Let’s go over a few reasons why it is a good idea to use a legal sportsbook.
1) Security/Peace of Mind
An offshore book or local bookie will likely be happy to take your “deposit.” They make it really easy for you to give them your money to use for a wager. But when you win, are they just as reliable to pay you out? What recourse do you have if they simply choose not to pay? Very little, to be honest.
Contrast that with a legal sportsbook that is regulated in the state(s) in which it does business. Your money is safe, secure, and available for withdrawal upon operator approval.
Does Joe Bookie match your first deposit? Unlikely. Will he let you bet again if your first bet loses? Hah. Good luck with that. You know who will match your first deposit? You know who will give you a free bet if your first bet loses? Legal sportsbooks will.
Legal, regulated sportsbooks compete for your business. They all offer some sort of sportsbook promotions for new users. Since Georgia will have several operators, you will easily be able to find the promotion that suits your particular gambling interests.
3) Betting options
It appears that Georgia will be an open, competitive market. At least six licenses will be up for grabs, and it is possible that a dozen or more operators will end up going live in the state. This is great news for bettors.
If several operators are in a state, they have to compete for market share. This results in valuable promotions being offered to entice new customers to sign up. Some operators may have better lines, some might offer better ongoing promotions, while others might be focused on offering the widest variety of sports.
Maybe you really like futures bets. All books have futures bets available, but with at least six online sportsbooks available in the state, you will be able to shop around to find the best price and value. The betting options are almost endless when there are multiple operators competing for your business.
Everyone has a smartphone these days. To paraphrase what has likely been a cell phone company ad, “the future is mobile.” If that hasn’t been on an ad yet, it should be. Anyway, it’s actually good that Georgia is planning to go mobile-only for its sports betting legalization plan.
Mobile betting (browser and mobile) makes up over 90 percent of all the sports betting revenue generated in some states. Georgia doesn’t need casinos to generate millions of dollars in revenue for its education programs.
Mobile betting also benefits bettors. Similar to betting options in a competitive market, each operator has a different app. Some are definitely better than others. In fact, SportsHandle even has a review and ranking of all the biggest sportsbook mobile apps.
Many of the top-rated apps will likely be available in Georgia. Bettors have clearly shown their preference for mobile betting. The future is here, and it’s mobile.
History of gambling in Georgia
Back in the mid-1800s, there wasn’t much to gamble on. Horse racing was just getting started, all the major sports hadn’t been invented yet, and people didn’t exactly have much free time or disposable income. But the lottery did exist in the 1800s and it took the southern states by storm.
The only problem was that it was notoriously corrupt. As the corruption took root and people realized the game was rigged, religious leaders appealed to state legislatures to prohibit lotteries on moral grounds. State political leaders took heed, and in 1878 Georgia joined many other states in banning all types of gambling, including lotteries.
Unlike other states that loosened up their restrictions on lotteries and gambling, Georgia stood firm and continued to prohibit all forms of gambling for almost 100 years, until it legalized charity bingo and raffles in 1976.
By the 1970s, many states had state-run lotteries in addition to horse racing and other types of gambling. Georgia did not. But in 1992, the state decided it was time to expand gambling and introduced a state-run lottery that would fund educational opportunities in the state.
The lottery has proven to be extremely popular and successful, and the revenue generated from it has provided thousands of young Georgians with the opportunity to go to college through the HOPE scholarship program. It remains the only legal gambling option in the state.