Constitutional Amendment Would Make Georgia Sports Betting Unlikely Before 2025 Super Bowl


Constitutional Amendment Would Make Georgia Sports Betting Unlikely Before 2025 Super Bowl

If Georgia state lawmakers decide to legalize sports betting via a constitutional amendment, it could be two years before the first legal bet is placed in Georgia.

Sen. Bill Cowsert’s tandem legislation of Senate Resolution 140, the constitutional amendment allowing for legal Georgia sports betting, and Senate Bill 172, the amendment’s enabling legislation, moved one step closer to passage last week when SR 140 cleared the Georgia Senate’s Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.

Competing approaches to legal sports betting in Georgia Legislature

Two days before SR 140 passed in committee, Senate Bill 57, which would legalize sports betting via a legislative statute, sailed through its own committee hearing. SB 57 is one of two bills (the other is House Bill 380) taking the legislative approach, which requires only a simple majority vote in both chambers and Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature to legalize sports betting.

While technically a quicker approach, a legislative statute, in Cowsert’s eyes, could be derailed through legal challenges.

“It’s only fair if we’re going to make that big of a cultural change in our state to let the people of Georgia decide to do that,” Cowsert said, according to The Associated Press.

Ballot measures advance to elections in a two-year cycle

Ballot measures, which include constitutional amendments, only hit voting ballots in even-numbered years

Georgia’s General Assembly operates on a biennial cycle, meaning that legislation introduced in odd-numbered years has two sessions, or two years, to pass through both chambers before landing on the ballot. 

Should a ballot initiative pass in its first session, it must still wait until an even-numbered year to reach the ballot. Thus, should Cowsert’s legislation pass through both chambers in 2023, voters won’t see it on their ballots until November 2024.

Georgia sports betting would require building betting infrastructure from scratch

SB 172 calls for creating a Georgia Gaming Commission to regulate the industry. It would be created and staffed from scratch

Along with a new state gaming regulator, Georgia would also need to create an entire retail infrastructure from the ground up, including retail sports betting kiosks

The only other state to offer kiosks at scale is Ohio, and the Buckeye State is three months into launch with still only one-third of its total approved kiosk hosts up and running. 

On the online side, operator approval and licensing would require months to complete. A new Georgia Gaming Commission would need to run background checks on all operators. Those operators would need to establish significant safe gambling and privacy protection supports to satisfy the commission, which would likely take its cues from states such as Ohio. 

In Ohio, regulators cracked down on applicants who failed to cross all their T’s. That slowed the launch process and left some operators on the sidelines when sports betting went live on Jan. 1. 

In light of recent criticism around sports betting advertising, affiliate marketing, financial security and even bettors’ behavior at live sporting events, increased regulatory scrutiny could lead to an extended rollout period in Georgia.

There is also the issue of geolocation and geofencing services. SB 172 states all licensees must establish “geolocation or geofencing technology to ensure that online sports betting is available only to bettors who are physically located in this state. A licensee shall maintain in this state the servers it uses to transmit information for purposes of accepting wagers on a sporting event placed by bettors located in this state.”

These components will likely take months to set up, test and finalize for launch. 

From voter approval to launch could take more than a year

Should Cowsert’s approach win the day and get the electorate’s vote, when could Georgians expect to place their first bets? 

The short answer is not anytime soon. A Georgia sports law crafted through a constitutional amendment would need a hail-mary pass to launch in time for the 2025 Super Bowl.

Looking again at Ohio, a state with a similar population to Georgia but with an established casino and racino industry, its retail and online sports betting launch required roughly 10-12 months of work for most operators. 

With its lack of gaming infrastructure, Georgia can expect a slower rollout. 

If 12 months to launch becomes 14 months, the 2025 Super Bowl could still be a target. However, if 14 months is still insufficient, the next target would be March Madness 2025. If the Peach State needs still more time, the next major event in the betting year would be the start of the 2025-2026 NFL season