Effort To Legalize Georgia Sports Betting Brought Back To Life


Effort To Legalize Georgia Sports Betting Brought Back To Life

Legal sports betting in Georgia was thrown a life preserver Thursday in the Georgia Senate.

The Georgia Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee approved a substitute to House Bill 237, amending the bill with language to legalize sports betting in Georgia.

The bill’s original intent, to designate the Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby as the state’s official soap box derby, was stripped from the amended bill at the request of the sponsor, Rep. Leesa Hagan.

The amended bill passed the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee, 8-1. 

Efforts to legalize sports betting in Georgia were thought to be dead after the Senate and House failed to pass sports betting bills before the deadline March 6 for bills to be considered in one chamber after passing in the originating chamber.

Few details known about new Georgia sports betting bill

The sports betting language contained within the substitute bill has not been released publicly, but the bill does try to legalize sports betting without using a constitutional amendment.

Committee member Sen. Derek Mallow, D-Savannah, highlighted some of the details during Thursday’s meeting:

  • Sports betting would be regulated by the Georgia Lottery;
  • Proceeds from sports betting would benefit education;
  • Credit cards can’t be used to fund sports betting accounts.

Not every committee member supported the attempt to revive sports betting legalization. Committee Vice Chair Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, lambasted the effort before leaving the committee meeting without voting on the substitute.

“Whoever came up with this idea just set sports betting back five years,” Dugan said. “When you hijack a soap box derby bill and put sports betting at the back of it, every person who was on the fence in the state of Georgia has just now picked a side of the fence.”

Previous sports betting bills fail earlier this session

Five pieces of sports betting legislation failed to gain traction in the Georgia Legislature earlier this legislative session. Part of the reason sports betting efforts have stalled is the difference of opinion on whether a constitutional amendment is needed to create the industry.

Two bills received votes on the Senate floor. 

Senate Bill 57, which would have made sports betting legal without an amendment, was voted down, 39-17

Senate Resolution 140, which proposed a constitutional amendment to make sports betting legal, had support in the Senate, 30-26, but not the two-thirds majority needed to pass an amendment.

House Bill 380, which looked to legalize sports betting without a constitutional amendment, did not get a vote on the House floor after efforts in the Senate died.

New bill’s prospects for passing

Given the failure of two previous sports betting measures in the Senate, especially that of SB 57, it appears unlikely that HB 237 would have much of a chance in the Senate. Dugan indicated as much.

“Y’all can vote this out of committee. It will not pass on the floor,” Dugan said. “I think everyone in here knows it won’t pass on the floor. And the damage you have just done to the sports betting industry by trying this is unfathomable to me.”

Should HB 237 pass the Senate, the House must concur with the changes before it could be sent to Gov. Brian Kemp.