The past two years have seen significant pushes to legalize Georgia sports betting. Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams voiced her support for it during her 2022 campaign, and in 2023, lawmakers considered several paths to legalization.
This begs the question: Could Georgia sports betting finally be legalized in 2024?
The current Georgia sports betting landscape
Abrams announced her support for legal sports betting during the summer of 2022. She did so with a series of Georgia Bulldog-themed campaign ads that highlighted tax dollars going to other states.
She, though, lost her bid for governor, as Gov. Brian Kemp was re-elected. Kemp, who previously opposed sports betting in 2018, said legalizing sports betting would take an amendment to the Georgia constitution.
That’s one of the routes several lawmakers attempted to take in early-2023. Politicians considered several possible paths to legalization, one of which was a constitutional amendment that would have forced a popular vote. That measure received more ‘yes’ votes than ‘no’ votes, at 30-26, but required a two-thirds majority.
Another Senate bill legalizing sports betting and horse racing was supported by the state’s major sports teams. However, that was voted down by a 37-19 margin, and a House bill was never brought to a vote. As a result, Georgia sports betting remains illegal.
Is there reason for optimism?
The best answer to this question is probably an indecisive ‘maybe.’ While Kemp said his position had not changed over the last four years, going from opposition to suggesting a pathway for legalization suggests that may not be the case.
It’s also worth noting that nearby states may have sports betting up and running soon. Florida, most notably, may relaunch its industry after the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the Seminole Tribe can offer online sportsbooks. In addition, North Carolina will soon have legal online sports betting within its borders after new legislation passed earlier this year.
The presence of sports betting in nearby states could spur a sense of urgency in the Peach State. It could certainly make Abrams’s point about tax dollars leaving Georgia harder to ignore.
What needs to happen to legalize GA sports betting?
The Georgia legislature reconvenes in January for no longer than 40 days. This is when bills are proposed, considered and brought to votes.
Stakeholders have time to regroup before that session starts. There have been several notable victories during the past few years, and Georgia sports betting seemed to gain some traction earlier this year.
The vote to add a constitutional amendment did have a slightly favorable majority. That margin is not far from a 2020 poll that said 58% of Georgians favor legalized sports betting. That process may not have been helped by the presence of multiple different sports betting bills during this legislative session. Lawmakers coming together to support one bill could potentially be a difference-maker.