Georgia’s Whiff On Sports Betting Disappoints Derek Schiller

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Georgia’s Whiff On Sports Betting Disappoints Derek Schiller

Exuberance echoed throughout Braves Country this week as the Atlanta Braves raised their 2021 World Championship pennant over the right-field wall at Truist Park.

And the members of Atlanta’s World Series-winning Braves received their eye-catching championship rings.

It wasn’t all elation, however, as the Georgia legislature nixed legalized sports gambling yet again. A decision that Braves President Derek Schiller isn’t a fan of, according to a recent story by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“I was incredibly disappointed. … I suppose it’s mostly disappointing because this is something whose day and time should have come already.”

And now, even the top brass at Augusta National Golf Club have joined Schiller. The historic golf club quietly supports Georgia getting legal sports betting.

Corporate giants join the gambling debate

The appetite for legalized sports betting in Georgia is not in question. And now you have some of the state’s most popular (and profitable) sports organizations throwing their collective hats into the mix.

Despite the corporate heft behind the drive to make sports betting legal for Georgians, the legislature is still divided on the issue.

Schiller wants to bring sports betting out of the black market depths. And he’d like to see a legal market flourish as the revenue driver it’s destined to be.

According to multiple reports:

“It’s time that we take it out of the shadows, we regulate it, and that Georgia benefits from it in the form of tax dollars.”

This aversion to legalized gambling is not unique to Georgia. While 30 states and the District of Columbia have adopted some form of legal sports betting, the South still lags.

Statehouses throughout the region are currently debating bills similar to the one that just failed in Georgia. However, it remains unclear if they will suffer the same fate that Georgia’s just did.

The Braves are a Georgia institution. And when you have that level of statewide influence publicly backing measures to legalize sports betting, it tends to bend an ear or two.

It’s apparent at this juncture that the hesitance isn’t on the corporate end of things, but the socio-cultural spectrum.

A change-resistant region

The South has always been notoriously stubborn. Just take a look at the 22 counties that still have archaic blue laws in place, or don’t sell alcohol altogether.

The moral argument regarding legalized sports betting has always been the primary reason it’s still outlawed in the state. Though, authorities usually couch it in cherry-picked crime statistics.

When Corporate America is publicly signaling its support for sports gambling, the inability to act on measures that would legalize it simply looks like standing in the way.

Georgia failed to put a voter-determined measure on the ballot. They’re not even giving Georgians the choice to make an important decision about the socio-cultural identity of their state.

The push to establish legalized sports betting options is a train that’s long left the station in the US. Legislators in the Georgia House and Senate just keep putting pennies on the tracks.

And remember: Sports fans in Georgia are still betting, they’re just doing so at unregulated offshore sportsbooks. The lack of legislation just means the state misses out on the revenue.

When it was clear the sports betting legislation was going to fail, even the sponsor of the bill placed a bet at an offshore sportsbook.

Title for the Braves, a ‘better luck next year’ for legal sports betting in GA

So the state of Georgia will see yet another year where sports gambling remains a legal pariah. With the legislative session concluding, the earliest a similar measure could be back up for debate would be in 2023.

That reality has disappointed a vocal bloc of residents eager to join a majority of the nation with legal gambling infrastructure. And it also managed to disappoint Schiller, whose team just won its first World Championship in 26 years.

Like the Atlanta Braves’ World Series victory: Quite the accomplishment.

As Schiller told the AJC:

“At some point in time, I think logic should prevail in this. And at this point in time, it hasn’t.”

Photo by David Goldman / Associated Press