Georgia or North Carolina: Which Legalizes Sports Betting First?


Georgia or North Carolina: Which Legalizes Sports Betting First?

Georgia and North Carolina are locked in a race to legalize online sports betting.

Legal sports betting in Georgia is already behind North Carolina as the Tar Heel State already offers three retail options at tribal casinos. For most North Carolinians, however, the ability to place a legal wager on sports is limited to vacations to the mountains.

Sports betting outlook in the Tar Heel State

North Carolina was expected to revive the online sports betting debate this week after a sports betting bill cleared the Senate in 2022 but failed to advance through the House by one vote

A new bill was expected to be filed in the North Carolina House this week, and members appear confident that 2023 will be the year that sports betting is legalized.

The legislation’s pathway will see it evaluated by several committees before heading to the House floor, where it will need a simple majority vote to pass. From there, it will be sent to the Senate for the same scrutiny. 

Should it succeed on those stops, it’ll land on Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk for his signature. Cooper has said he would sign a sports betting bill. 

According to WRAL-TV, which has seen a draft of the upcoming legislation, the new North Carolina bill calls on the state lottery to deploy sports betting. Revenue would be used to boost budgets for local sports programs and the state’s HBCUs

If passed, North Carolina could be placing mobile sports wagers on next year’s Super Bowl, bill sponsors told WRAL. The new bill also would establish retail sports betting lounges at professional sports teams’ venues and issue up to 12 licenses for operators, according to WRAL.

Peach State sports betting outlook

Georgia sports betting is on shakier ground.

There are currently two efforts working their way through the Senate: Senate Bill 57 and Senate Resolution 140 (with its companion bill, Senate Bill 172). The House is considering House Bill 380. SB 57 has received the bulk of the attention, as it would completely circumvent the Georgia Constitution and legalize sports betting via a simple majority in the House and Senate (and with Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature, of course). The same is true for HB 380.

SR 140 is a more familiar piece of legislation, as it would follow the longer and more difficult constitutional amendment path of previous bills, mandating a two-thirds majority in each chamber before heading to a ballot for a public referendum. 

Depending on which approach passed, Georgians are looking at between six-16 online operators and a host of sports betting kiosks.

North Carolina appears to have the edge

The Southeast is a barren landscape for sports betting. Save for Tennessee, which launched online sports betting in 2020, most of the states in the region are trapped in a socially conservative vacuum that still deems sports betting a moral taboo.

North Carolina has a workable bill that will be revived and retrofitted for the 2023 session. The 2022 version came up one vote short when it was proposed. With amended language and additional time allotted for scrutiny and public comment, North Carolina is well-positioned legislatively to make online sports betting a reality. 

Georgia is making its own progress, with bills sailing through their respective chamber’s committees. Georgia has seen sports betting gain traction before, though, and bettors will be hoping for an extra push this year.