The University of Georgia’s football team won the national championship Monday night, winning by 58 points. The Bulldogs easily covered the 13.5-point spread, setting a record for the largest margin of victory in any bowl game.
Georgia just had one of the most dominant championship performances by any team, in any sport, ever. pic.twitter.com/vyY2DeKXk6
— Jim Rome (@jimrome) January 10, 2023
While Georgia won, Georgians weren’t able to legally wager on Stetson Bennett and the Bulldogs. Sports betting isn’t yet legal in the state, although legislators are expected to discuss the topic in coming weeks.
The state’s legislative session began Monday, setting the stage for discussion of sports betting legislation. No bills related to sports wagering have been filed as of Wednesday morning, but a sports gambling proposal is expected to be filed early in this year’s session.
Rep. Ron Stephens was among those leading a push to legalize sports betting in Georgia in 2022, but his efforts fell short. His proposed constitutional amendment was gutted toward the end of the state’s legislative session, instead replaced with a bill related to timber tax.
Georgia lawmakers, including Stephens, have tried for a few years to legalize sports gambling in the state. Even after falling short in 2022’s legislative session, Stephens said last year that the push is coming closer to a breakthrough.
“It’s changing, and I can see it changing,” Stephens said in April. “We’re getting closer every time that we talk about it. It’s coming.”
Prospects for 2023
The 2023 legislative session lasts through the end of March, giving legislators a few months to approach the topic of sports betting.
Previously, legislators like Stephens tried to pass a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting. That’s a challenge, as a constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds majority in both the Georgia House and Senate before going in front of voters.
Interestingly, sports betting legal expert Daniel Wallach recently shared on Twitter that he believes Georgia could legalize such wagering through a separate bill. Wallach believes a standalone sports betting bill would be considered different from one that includes casino gambling legalization, which would require a constitutional amendment in Georgia.
Each of those states operates sports betting through their state-run lottery. And this would not require a ballot question; only legislative authorization. The state-lottery exception for sports betting may represent the path of least resistance for Georgia lawmakers.
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) January 11, 2023
Given the skill involved with sports betting compared to, say, slots, there’s an argument that it falls outside the state constitution’s anti-gambling provisions. In other words, if a legislator decides to file a separate sports betting bill, it would only require a simple legislative majority instead of a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting.
Axios reported that there is a renewed push among stakeholders to go the standalone route, leaving casino gambling and horse racing language out of the bill and making the state lottery the sports betting regulator. New Lt. Gov. Burt Jones is a supporter of legal sports betting, and he has history with standalone legislation on this topic, proposing a bill in 2020 that wouldn’t have required a constitutional amendment. A separate bill is hardly a sure thing to pass given some of the moral objections to betting in the state, but avoiding a constitutional amendment seemingly boosts the chances of legalization.
“I’ve been consistent about the positive return and revenues that safe, secure and legal sports betting could generate for our state — and look forward to working with the General Assembly to hopefully make it a reality this upcoming legislative session,” Jones recently told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.