Legal Sports Betting In Georgia Still Has Hope

Written By Carter Breazeale on March 22, 2022
Georgia sports betting inches forward with new legislation

As a wave of bills legalizing sports betting sweeps across the country, Georgia is still mired in legislative muck that has left its residents unclear on when — or if — it will be able to join 26 other states in the ability to place bets on sports.

Georgia inched closer to clearing the way to legalized sports betting with Senate Resolution 131. This resolution would have legalized gambling on horse races but it failed to capture a two-thirds majority and advance to the full House for debate.

As it currently stands, Georgians find themselves in somewhat of a legal netherworld as far as the appetite for and trajectory of legalized Georgia sports betting.

While the vote on Senate Resolution 131 held a bipartisan majority at 33-20, the failure to exceed the supermajority threshold meant that Georgians would have to wait longer to wager. And it’s not clear when that may be but not all hope is lost, legislatively.

As for sports betting in the Peach State, all hope for a path this year rests on the current bills passing the House by April 4, when the legislative session ends.

A path forward and a roadblock

The sports betting issue has been kicked around the legislature for years.

The recent push to legalize sports betting in Georgia began with House Speaker David Ralston. He publicly spearheaded the notion for state residents to decide via ballot measure.

Standard partisan bickering and gamesmanship DOA’d a push for sports betting in early 2021. It was a positive step forward to have a prominent figure advocating sports betting for Georgians.

This progressed to the drafting of Senate Resolution 131. SR 131 would have legalized horse betting and established up to five racing tracks and racebooks in GA.

Senate Resolution 131 cleared its committee and reached the full State Senate for a vote last week. However, it failed due to the supermajority requirement. Essentially, Georgians find themselves at square one … yet again.

SR 135 and SB 142: Hope for GA sports betting

When all else fails, hitch your wagon to something established and accepted, like the lottery. That’s exactly what Senate Resolution 135 would do. Legalize sports betting as a game administered by the Georgia Lottery.

The resolution advanced from the Senate with a vote of 41-10 in early March. And should it also clear its hurdle in the House, voters would have the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment in the upcoming general election.

Should the amendment pass, Georgians could be able to cast legal bets as soon as January of 2023.

Senate Bill 142 has also reached the House as a framework for how incorporating the Georgia Lottery into sports gambling would work. It passed the Senate with a narrower 34-17 margin. SB 142 gets into the parts and particulars of utilizing the lottery as a conduit for legalized sports betting.

Should SB 142 pass the House, it would permit of-age Georgians to place legal bets on college and professional sports. And it would be administered through the Georgia Lottery.

Between vendor fees and taxes, it would generate millions in revenue for the state.

Steps closer to legal sports betting in Georgia

Progress, especially regarding an issue as divisive as gambling on sports, can have a stop-start quality to it. But with the flurry of legalized sports betting across the country, any formalized action, such as the horse betting bill, can be considered a step in the right direction.

Politicking is an oft bewildering dance, with conditions placed on bills that seemingly have no place in the current debate. It results in legal stalemates, and ultimately a confused and frustrated citizenry.

So while Georgia continues its legal merry-go-round on the issue of legalized sports betting, it’s important to consider the steps forward made in a bipartisan fashion. Even if they did not eclipse legal hurdles.

In short, however: Should Senate Resolution 135 and Senate Bill 142 succeed, the state will be one step closer to establishing legalized sports betting. It will then be up to the Georgia voters to decide.

Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

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Carter Breazeale

Carter Breazeale is a freelance journalist with a focus on sports, business, and the business of sports. An Atlanta native currently residing in Orlando, Carter graduated from The University of Central Florida. Since 2018 he has covered the Atlanta Falcons for SBNation's site, The Falcoholic.

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