Sports Betting Comes Down To Wire As House Committee Declines Vote Again

Written By Cheryl Coward on March 27, 2024
A picture of a man waving a checkered flag for a story about how the Georgia sports betting bill is coming down to the wire of the 2024 legislative session.

Georgia lawmakers are dangerously close to running out of time if they want to pass a sports betting bill this year.

During an hour-long hearing Wednesday, the House Higher Education Committee didn’t take action on Senate Bill 386 or its companion, Senate Resolution 579. The committee will meet one more time on Thursday morning before a House floor vote ends the 2024 legislative session.

SB 386 establishes the groundwork for adding Georgia sports betting to the state constitution. SR 579 adds a ballot initiative so residents can vote on legalizing sports wagering in November.

The committee must approve the measure and pass a House floor vote. Then, the Senate must adopt the changes made by the House. The legislature must accomplish that all in one day.

While not impossible, it is unlikely. The bill heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk if they accomplish the feat.

No voting decided at the outset of the hearing

Efforts to legalize Georgia sports betting have all failed in the past.

When the Senate passed measures earlier this session, there was optimism that 2024 was the year lawmakers finally got it done. Especially after the Senate added a requirement to put the issue in front of voters as a constitutional amendment.

At the outset of the hearing, Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) squashed any thought of a vote. Instead, Martin indicated he would only be taking questions and fielding discussions about changes to the measures.

Committee members provided input on tax revenue allocation, responsible gaming initiatives and problem gambling. The disbursement of funds to education took up a fair amount of time as committee members talked about what kinds of programs should receive money.

Rep. Marcus Wiedower, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, told Education Committee members that sports betting could provide significant funding to education.

“One thing we seem to all agree upon and wrap our heads around is education and making sure there’s good education for our children. And that’s where I’ve tried to keep this money.”

In the legislation, 80% of the revenue is earmarked for various educational programs, including pre-K programs and college scholarships.

Sen. Bill Cowsert, who sponsored SR 579, proposed a change that would allocate 85% of revenue for education and 15% of the first $150 million for a problem gambling fund. The proposal ensures the fund receives $22.5 million.

Down to the wire

Lawmakers could still change the measure on Thursday morning. The resolution and its companion bill will not pass without bipartisan support, as two-thirds of the General Assembly must approve them.

But, of course, the measures must make it out of committee before they can face full votes in both chambers.

The final hurdle would come in November when voters have their say on legalizing sports betting.

Photo by PlayGeorgia
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Cheryl Coward

Cheryl Coward started her career as a news reporter in Washington, DC. She's a die-hard women's basketball fan and founded the website as a result of that passion. She loves writing about sports on all levels and has previous experience covering sports betting regulations, operator marketing campaigns, and women's sports gambling topics.

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