Despite repeated efforts, a source told Sports Handle Tuesday that the effort to legalize sports betting in Georgia is now six feet under. The legislature’s session ends Wednesday, and Democrats in the state are continuing to withhold votes over a controversial voting-rights bill that the Republicans sponsored earlier in the session.
But within the last two days, prospects have dimmed in both Arizona and Georgia. Connecticut’s tribes agreed to a new compact with Gov. Ned Lamont earlier this month, and legislation is starting to work its way through the system. Sports betting legislation remains alive in both Kansas and Massachusetts, though both state legislatures lack a clear consensus on what it will look like.
Legal sports betting has plenty of support
In Georgia, while lawmakers, voters, and the state’s professional sports teams support sports betting, political jockeying has ruled the day. The House passed a bill that would have expanded the Georgia Lottery’s power to offer sports betting, and the Senate advanced a measure that would have required a voter referendum. At least in other areas, the chambers weren’t far apart.
No leader in @CityofAtlanta or anywhere else purporting to care about the Black vote should be helping lawmakers who just assaulted their constituents, pass sports betting. No dice. Literally. @KeishaBottoms can we count on you to side with voters?
— #JustGeorgia (@AJustGeorgia) March 29, 2021
Both were aiming to legalize statewide mobile/online wagering with modest tax rates. Under both HB 86 and SB 142, professional sports franchises would have gained the ability to partner with sports betting operators, and the law would have mandated that the lottery issue licenses to a minimum of six sportsbooks.
The House and Senate differed on whether or not to allow wagering on college sports, and if so, whether or not to prohibit betting on Georgia teams. The Senate bill would have banned betting on Georgia college sports teams, and the House bill banned wagering on any college sports. Sources said lawmakers were negotiating that point, but in the end, the details of a sports betting proposal weren’t really what was at issue.
Given that lawmakers seemed to have settled on the determination only a ballot referendum could effectuate the legalization of sports wagering in the state, falling short this year may not matter. The referendum wouldn’t go on the ballot until November 2022, meaning the General Assembly could approve language and framework early next year and still put it up for vote. Another option would be to simply approve the referendum, put that before voters, and come back in 2023 to create framework. Voters in Louisiana, Maryland, and South Dakota legalized via referendum last November, and lawmakers in all of those states are moving forward with regulatory frameworks now.