Opposing Views Over Education Funding Sunk Sports Betting In Georgia

Written By Dan Holmes on April 10, 2024
Sinking ship signifies the end of Georgia's sports betting hopes in 2024

Georgians hoping to place legal sports bets in their state have been forced to wait at least another year.

The House Rules Committee opted not to vote on the two companion bills passed by the Senate that would have allowed Georgia residents to vote on legalized sportsbooks in November.

A postmortem of that failure reveals that lawmakers couldn’t agree on how to spend revenue from a legal sports betting market.

Why Georgia lawmakers punted on sports betting this year

There is some good news concerning the future of Georgia sports betting. For the most part, lawmakers are not battling over whether to legalize sports wagering. Instead, they are arguing how to spend tax revenue from it.

Ultimately, the legislation that had bipartisan support failed to get out of the final committee before a floor vote. The point of contention was where the projected tens of millions of annual tax revenue should be spent.

Interestingly, most lawmakers agree that tax revenue should go to education programs. They just can’t decide which programs and how much should go to each program.

But the sense is that lawmakers will get a sports betting bill passed in 2025, said Rep. Marcus Wiedower, a Republican from Atlanta.

“This will be a measure that will be taken up again next year. I think we should bring online sports betting into the legal market, regulate it, and keep tax dollars here in Georgia.”

How needs-based education became the sticking point

Want to blame someone for the failure of the sports betting bill this year? Start with state Rep. Sam Park (D), the lawmaker responsible for submitting the amendment that sunk the legislation. Park’s amended language called for a minimum of 70% of the revenue from sports betting to be spent on needs-based education programs in Georgia.

Republicans, however, refused to adjust their position on needs-based education, which doomed the bill to fail. That’s why the House Rules Committee chose not to send Senate Bill 386 and Senate Resolution 579 to the floor for an up-down vote.

Needs-based education programs in Georgia are a significant source of money for scholarships awarded to lower-income students. Democrats want those state-sponsored scholarships fully funded, while Republicans oppose what they consider hefty expenditures the state can’t afford. Some Republicans think the state should not choose which segment of the population gets education funding.

Lawmakers got hung up on that spending requirement, and Georgia online sports betting withered on the vine.

Most Lottery dollars go to merit-based scholarships

The Georgia Lottery is a popular program that has generated billions for the state. Even without a sales tax attached, the tax revenue from the Georgia Lottery has been a boon for the budget.

Most of the tax revenue from the Lottery is earmarked for education programs. However, much of that goes to merit-based scholarships, or to pre-school and elementary programs.

Those programs have been less controversial than needs-based education.

Dan Holmes Avatar
Written by
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.

View all posts by Dan Holmes