Senate Passes Resolution To Allow Sports Betting Constitutional Amendment

Written By Steve Schult on February 27, 2024 - Last Updated on February 28, 2024
Georgia lawmakers voting on an issue for a story about them passing a resolution making a constitutional amendment necessary to pass sports betting.

The Georgia Senate passed a resolution Tuesday afternoon that would allow Georgians to vote on whether to legalize sports betting.

The upper chamber voted 41-12 in favor of SR 579. Sen. Bill Cowsert introduced the measure earlier this month. It cements the need for a constitutional amendment to allow for a Georgia sports betting market.

Additionally, it designated how sports betting tax revenue would be distributed. The Senate decided that 80% of revenue would fund pre-kindergarten programs. Then, once those programs are fully funded, they would send the remainder to fund college scholarship programs.

Of the remaining 20%, Senators want to send 15% of it to fund gambling addiction treatment. Lastly, 5% would go to a fund to help Georgia recruit and fund major sporting events.

Major sports betting operators can’t be pleased

The resolution comes several weeks after the Senate passed SB 386. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Clint Dixon, would legalize sports betting in Georgia. It would put the Georgia Lottery in charge of regulating the industry.

Moreover, the Sports Betting Alliance, a group of the nation’s largest sportsbooks, including FanDuel and DraftKings, backed the bill. The SBA contended that the state didn’t need a constitutional amendment to pass sports betting legislation.

But Cowsert disagreed.

“They tried to do an end run around me and pass this bill that did not have a constitutional amendment, deeming sports betting to be a lottery game,” Cowsert told PlayUSA in early February. “When the bill came to the floor, I simply amended it to make it effective only upon the passage of a constitutional amendment.”

Cowsert added an amendment to the bill before it passed, and the Senate approved it. All constitutional amendments require voters to pass the measure at the ballot box in November.

In other words, Cowsert didn’t want sports betting in his state without the people’s consent. A week after the bill passed, Cowsert introduced SR 579 to the Senate.

Now, the resolution heads to the House, which will need a two-thirds majority to pass.

Does this make it easier for Georgia to pass sports betting legislation?

Since Dixon’s bill went to the lower chamber, it was referred to the House Higher Education Committee. But lawmakers haven’t announced a timeline for when the bill will be heard.

However, most Georgia Republicans believe a constitutional amendment is necessary for sports betting. Sen. Gloria Butler, a Democrat representing Stone Mountain, told the Associated Press that her party agreed to the resolution because of the education funding, not the amendment process.

On the other hand, Republicans who spoke to the AP said that the amendment was their priority.

With a 16-10 Republican majority in the committee, it becomes easier for Georgia GOP members to suffocate the bill until they get what they want.

The resolution could end that stalemate.

Photo by AP Photo / David Goldman
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Steve Schult

Steve stays on top of all things related to the national gaming industry. He is also a veteran of the gambling world. The native New Yorker started covering high-stakes tournaments in 2009 for some of poker’s most prominent media outlets before adding the broader U.S. gaming market to his beat in 2018.

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