Georgia Sports Betting May Not Be Dead Yet


Georgia Sports Betting May Not Be Dead Yet

Georgia House Speaker John Burns left the door cracked on sports betting this legislative session in recent comments at a Georgia Press Club event.

Five pieces of sports betting legislation were filed in the 2023 legislative session, but none survived Crossover Day. The best chance came from Sen. Bill Cowsert’s Senate Resolution 140, which would have amended the Georgia Constitution through a public referendum. It received a majority vote in the Senate but not the two-thirds majority required for a constitutional amendment.

Gambling options in the Peach State are extremely limited. Should Georgia sports betting get a second chance this legislative session, it would likely not take effect until 2025.

Georgia sports betting didn’t see the House floor

Burns, speaking about the absence of a vote on sports betting during Crossover Day, told the Georgia Press Club that “Monday night might not have been the best time for sports betting,” Georgia Recorder reported

With a packed docket of bills to consider on Crossover Day, House representatives were told shortly before dinner recess that not all legislation would receive a final reading. The decision about what to bring to the floor and what to leave pending was left to the House Rules Committee.

Having seen the failure of two Senate bills – both a sports betting constitutional amendment and a legislative statute – the Rules Committee may have determined that House Bill 380, the lone piece of Georgia sports betting legislation to reach the floor, wasn’t a prudent bill to address in crunch time.

The only other piece of sports wagering legislation filed in the House was House Resolution 210, which took the constitutional amendment route but included pari-mutuel horse racing and commercial casinos. Both of those turned out to be nonstarters for Georgia lawmakers. 

There’s always a chance for a workaround 

Crossover Day is technically the last day a bill can be considered in its originating chamber to have enough time to cross over to the other chamber before the end of the legislative session. However, there’s always the possibility of a workaround.

Burns, R-Newington, hinted at such a chance in his remarks.

“We don’t close the door on anything,” he told WABE’s Lisa Rayam. “We will continue to talk, we will continue to get educated and I’ll continue to do what I’ve committed to doing and that’s listening to my members.”

This is Burns’ first session as speaker, and he has expressed an interest in prioritizing education. In his mind, sports betting revenue funneled through the Georgia Lottery would serve the state’s pre-K program

The Georgia public school system offers free pre-K to 4-year-olds who apply. Sports betting revenue could help expand the number of children who get access to the program or extend the program to pre-K3 as well. 

How might Georgia sports betting stay alive this session?

First of all, Georgia’s Legislature operates in a biennial cycle, meaning that all legislation that fails this session can be revived next session in its current form. 

However, Burns’ comments indicating that the sports betting door may be cracked implies that a sports betting component could be added as a rider to a piece of legislation that did pass its originating chamber. 

Such a sports betting rider need not have a connection to the legislation it’s appended to, potentially making it harder for such root legislation to pass. The fact that five pieces of sports betting legislation have already been shot down this session may make any lawmaker reticent to accept a sports betting rider that could become a “poison pill” for an otherwise successful bill.

Burns’ comments suggest he is aware of a strong sports betting contingency. Further, since the House didn’t find time to address HB 380, which was favorably reviewed in committee, he may be indicating that sports betting deserves something like a second chance this session. 

Whatever the Georgia Assembly decides to do, they have until March 29 to pass legislation. After that, Georgians must wait another year to see if legal sports betting will prevail in the Georgia Legislature.