Lawmaker: GA House Will ‘Absolutely’ Debate Sports Betting Bill Amendment

Written By Dan Holmes on February 7, 2024 - Last Updated on February 9, 2024
Photo of Georgia Rep. Ron Stephens, who said constitutional amendment to sports betting bill will be debated in the House

A bill that would legalize sports betting in Georgia was given its first reading Tuesday in the Georgia House of Representatives.

When the Senate passed the bill, Senate Bill 386, last week, it attached a constitutional amendment requirement, meaning residents would have to vote on the proposal in the upcoming November election.

Now, at least one lawmaker has indicated that the topic of a constitutional amendment will be debated by the Georgia House.

Rep. Ron Stephens: Constitutional amendment topic is ‘muddy to say the least’

Some in Atlanta have argued that a constitutional amendment is required to legalize Georgia sports betting. But others think it’s permitted under the powers granted to the Georgia Lottery Corporation. Senate Bill 386 passed last week by a vote of 35-15 with a provision for an amendment to the state constitution.

Rep. Ron Stephens, a Republican from the 164th District, told PlayGeorgia sister site PlayUSA the House will have to revisit the notion of a required constitutional amendment.

“I think it’s a good conversation that we will carry into the House,” he said. “It absolutely will still be a debate in the House.”

Previously, Lt. Governor Burt Jones threw his support behind efforts to pass sports betting without the need for a constitutional amendment. State Sen. Bill Cowsert introduced a competing bill for this current session that required an amendment. Ultimately, that requirement made its way into SB386 by a 34-7 vote last week.

Now, Georgia representatives will need to decide whether the amended language is needed or not — on top of deciding whether to pass the bill. 

It’s possible lawmakers like Stephens could support SB386 as is. In 2021, when he introduced his sports betting bill, he did not have a requirement for the constitutional amendment. But Stephens isn’t opposed to seeing the issue advance with such a requirement.

“The former chief justice of the Supreme Court (is telling me that) we can do electronic sports betting today as a lottery game,” he said. “(But others hold) the opposite opinion. So, it’s muddy to say the least.”

Constitutional amendment requirement would slow the process

If the bill passes as is in the House, voters would need to approve a state constitutional amendment this November. If successful there, the governor could sign it into law.

That means the earliest sports betting could be legal in Georgia is 2025.

First, the sports betting bill must pass through a House committee. According to the Georgia Legislature’s website, the bill has already been assigned to the Higher Education Committee. That committee, chaired by Rep. Chuck Martin, does not currently have a next hearing on the schedule.

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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a contributor for PlayGeorgia with plenty of experience under his belt. Dan has written three books about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He also has extensive experience covering the launch of sports betting in other states, including Ohio, Massachusetts and Maryland. Currently, Dan is residing in Michigan with his family.

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