Sports Betting Bill Stalled, Dies Without Georgia House Floor Vote

Written By Mike Breen on March 28, 2024 - Last Updated on March 29, 2024
A picture of the welcome mat in the Georgia State Capitol for a story about what is happening with the sports betting bill during the final day of the legislative session.

A bill that would’ve legalized sports betting in the Peach State took a wild ride on the final day of the 2024 legislative session. But ultimately, the bill stalled in the Rules Committee and died without a House floor vote.

Thursday was the final day of the session and there were still several hurdles for Georgia sports betting legislation to clear. The bills needed to pass two committees and a floor vote to all in one day. Despite the obstacles, there was still some hope for the bills as the House of Representatives moved through the day’s agenda.

The House Higher Education Committee failed to vote on Senate Bill 386 and Senate Resolution 579 Wednesday. However, the committee reconvened for an 8 a.m. session with both bills on the agenda this morning.

Some Republicans opposed the bill this morning, but the committee voted to move both bills to the Rules Committee. That committee is the final hurdle before a full vote on the House floor.

Rules Committee passes on sports betting during first meeting

The two pieces of sports betting legislation work together.

SB 386 would set up the sports betting regulatory and operational framework. On the other hand, SR 579 requires a constitutional amendment legalizing sports betting in the state.

If passed in the House, the Senate must approve any changes made in the lower chamber. Then, Georgia residents would have final approval at the ballot box in November.

After its passage in Higher Education, lawmakers read and introduced the bill at the House Rules Committee’s 9 a.m. meeting. However, the committee did not include them in the legislation passed on for the House floor to vote on today.

The speaker announced on the House floor that the Rules Committee would reconvene at 2:30 p.m. This could allow committee members to vote and move SB 386 and SR 579 to the House floor.

Reps at odds over sports betting revenue disbursement

Higher Education Committee member Rep. Sam Park told PlayUSA that he was attempting to negotiate a Rules substitute that includes his proposal to divert a large chunk of sports betting revenue to needs-based higher education scholarships.

Park proposed the changes in yesterday’s Higher Education meeting. He said adding the needs-based education element would help garner bi-partisan support.

“It would help direct funds in a more clear and specific manner to I think some of the high needs of this state, both with respect to Pre-K as well as with higher education,” Park said. “So I hope that as this issue proceeds, there would be an opportunity again for this issue to garner bipartisan support. As a bipartisan compromise will be needed on both the House and Senate floor.”

SR 579 needs two-thirds majority to pass

SB 386 needs only a simple majority to pass the full House. Because it would facilitate an amendment to the state constitution, SR 579 needs two-thirds of the House to vote approvingly in order for it to pass.

The Georgia House has 101 Republican members and 78 Democratic representatives. With opposition on both sides, it’s unclear whether it could hit the two-thirds threshold later today.

As it currently stands, SB 386 sends the bulk of sports betting revenue to the merit-based higher-education HOPE Scholarship and pre-kindergarten programs.

The Higher Education Committee also amended the bill to raise the tax rate on sports betting revenue from 20% to 25%.

SR 579 was amended to divert a percentage of revenue to problem gambling. As a result, Georgia’s legislation would have the largest problem gambling fund of any state in the country.

Rules Committee ignores sports betting again

During its 2:30 pm meeting, members of the Rules Committee didn’t discuss either piece of sports betting legislation.

The meeting adjourned just a few minutes before the House floor reconvened. Thus, there won’t be a vote in the second afternoon session.

Surprise hearing gave sports betting brief moment of hope

The House floor broke for a dinner break around 6 p.m. and reconvened at 7:15 p.m. After a few pieces of business were finished and Gov. Brian Kemp gave a short speech, the Speaker announced the Rules Committee was meeting again.

At about 7:45 p.m., the House briefly recessed while the Rules Committee gathered. However, the committee didn’t discuss the sports betting bill before the general floor votes resumed at 8 p.m.

There were rumors that the Rules Committee could meet one more time before the conclusion of the session. Those hopes were quickly dashed as the session inched closer to midnight.

Eventually, lawmakers became so restless they began throwing paper planes throughout the chamber. The committee never met again, thus killing sports betting’s hopes for this year.


Photo by AP Photo / David Goldman
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Mike Breen

Mike Breen is a contributor for several of Catena Media's regional sites. He focuses on gambling trends and the legislative process. The Ohio-based writer has more than two decades of experience covering sports, news, music, art and culture.

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