Primaries Set Stage For General Election — And Sports Betting’s Future Chances

Written By Mike Breen on May 31, 2024
Georgia Rep. Brandon Beach, legal gambling proponent, wins his primary.

The dust has settled on the Georgia primaries, and we know who will represent the Democratic and Republican parties in the general election races for state Senate and House of Representatives seats in November. 

The primary results, as well as a look ahead at the November races, suggest membership in the General Assembly will resemble its current makeup next year, with Republicans on track to retain their majority in both chambers. 

In recent years, attempts to pass legislation related to Georgia gambling expansion have received bipartisan support. But sometimes, including with this year’s failed Georgia sports betting proposals, partisan gamesmanship has stalled legislation. 

Key gambling expansion players on track for re-election

Georgia’s primaries signaled that the key players in 2024 gambling expansion efforts will likely return for another term and potentially take up the sports betting battle again in 2025. 

All but two Georgia General Assembly incumbents won their party primaries on Tuesday. Several incumbents who lobbied strongly for sports betting legislation this year faced no primary opponent. Most are favored to hold onto their seats in November, with some not even facing an opponent in the general election. 

Overall, 85 out of 180 House candidates are running unopposed in November. In the Senate, candidates for 30 of the 56 seats have no opponent. 

A look at Senate sports betting supporters likely to return in 2025

Here is the November outlook for some of sports betting’s main supporters in the Georgia Senate:

  • Republican Sen. Clint Dixon co-authored the sports betting bill (Senate Bill 386) that easily passed the Senate this year. He ran unopposed in the primary, and the Democrats are not running a candidate against him in the general election. 
  • Sen. Bill Cowsert introduced Senate Resolution 579 this year, which would have required a constitutional amendment and public vote to legalize sports betting. The Republican faced no primary opponent and is running unopposed in November. 
  • Longtime Republican Sen. Brandon Beach, who co-authored this year’s Senate sports betting bill and has previously proposed legislation to allow casinos and pari-mutuel horse race betting, will face Democratic primary winner Lillia Lionel in November. Beach’s district is bright red — and the one time in the past decade he faced a Democratic challenger, he won by over 40 percentage points. 

Main House supporters also likely to win re-election

In the Georgia House this year, sports betting legislation never made it to the floor for a vote. With the attached constitutional amendment requirement, a two-thirds majority vote is needed for passage. That gave Democrats the power to join Republican opponents and ultimately block the legislation from a House vote. Democrats delayed the bill by lobbying to have more sports betting tax revenue diverted to various education interests, including needs-based scholarships.

Perhaps the House’s biggest sports betting proponent, Republican Rep. Marcus Wiedower, overwhelmingly defeated his primary challenger. Wiedower has sponsored sports betting bills in the past, and he lobbied heavily for House support of the Senate legislation this year. 

Wiedower previously represented District 119, which he flipped red in 2018. He now represents the more reliably red District 121 and should be the favorite to defeat his Democratic challenger, newcomer Courtney Frisch, in November. 

Republican Rep. Ron Stephens, who has previously sponsored bills to legalize casinos, horse betting, and sports betting, had no primary opponent and is running unopposed in the general election. Democrat Rep. Teddy Reese, another vocal supporter of gambling expansion, also will not face an opponent in November.

Photo by Alex Slitz / AP Images
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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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