Georgians know things move a bit slower in the South, and for sports betting enthusiasts in the state, the prospect of legal sports gambling is moving at a glacial pace. After failing to advance in both the House and Senate in the 2023 General Assembly, Georgia sports betting legislation has again been proposed — but its prospects of advancing are dimmer than in years past.
Sports betting bill SB 172 introduced
Republican Sen. Bill Cowsert of Georgia’s 46th district is again spearheading the effort to bring legal sports betting to the Peach State, introducing Senate Bill 172, which would legalize, regulate and tax sports betting in the State of Georgia. The bill was advanced out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee last week, and will now face another hurdle as it heads for the full Senate for debate. SB 172 will require approval from two-thirds of each legislative chamber, and should it receive it, it will land on the General Election ballot for Georgians to approve or deny an amendment to the State Constitution to legalize gambling.
Multiple high bars to clear in the General Assembly
There are multiple high bars to clear, which is why there’s less optimism among legislators that 2024 will be the year that the state passes gambling legislation. You can chalk much of that sentiment up to this being an election year, and lawmakers are generally hesitant to tack their names onto any bills that could jeopardize their reelection aims. Cynicism often wins out in politics — especially in election years.
While the South has made strong strides in the sports betting arena, Georgia politicians remain skeptical of any gambling initiative. Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Florida now have legalized some form of sports betting, but Georgia annually remains stuck at the starting gate.
During last year’s General Assembly, multiple avenues were considered to bring legal sports betting to Georgia, including through a novel interpretation of the Georgia Constitution that convinced some lawmakers that a bill could be crafted that did not require a constitutional amendment. All of these measures ultimately failed, leaving Georgia residents without a legal way to place a wager in the state once more.
By reintroducing legislation that would tread the traditional path of a constitutional amendment for sports betting, Sen. Cowsert may be attempting to head off competing bills that would once more look to bypass the requirement.
“I don’t see anything to fear from a constitutional amendment. I think if you make a policy change like this, you ought to have the buy-in of both parties and the citizens on board to do that, so I embrace that,” Cowsert told Atlanta News First.
An uphill battle for sports betting in Georgia
The odds of SB 172 becoming law, however, are long. Each chamber would need to approve the legislation by a two-thirds majority, which is a very uphill climb. If accomplished, language would then need to be drafted to place in front of Georgians on the 2024 General Election ballot.
Crossover Day in the General Assembly, the date in which bills are formally voted on to move to the next chamber, is Feb. 29. There should be additional sports betting bills proposed in the coming days and weeks, but the prospect for 2024 seems dim.