Senate Bill 57 Fails To Advance Out Of Georgia Senate


Senate Bill 57 Fails To Advance Out Of Georgia Senate

Senate Bill 57, which would have legalized sports betting through a legislative statute, failed in the Georgia Senate on Thursday. The bill did not pass on a 37-19 vote against it.

Within the parameters of Georgia’s biennial legislative cycle, legislators can revisit SB 57 next year, but for the current session, Sen. Bill Hickman’s constitutional workaround to legalize sports betting in Georgia is finished.

Hickman presented financial benefits and bolstering of HOPE scholarships

Hickman, the bill’s primary sponsor introduced SB 57 as a way for Georgians to generate $1.1 billion in revenue for the state through sports betting and fixed-odds horse racing while fully funding the HOPE scholarship program, available to all Georgians. 

Hickman also cited data suggesting the bill would “create about 8,500 jobs for Georgians, which if we compare with sports betting, doesn’t create any jobs because it all happens right here on your phone.” He was speaking about jobs in the horse racing industry, which he characterized as “strong in Georgia.” However, he explained that “we see those trainers and horses go out of state to Kentucky and New York, and Georgia loses out.”

Along with the economic benefits to the state, Hickman stressed to his fellow lawmakers that “this bill means no casinos” and “no betting on high school sports.” These comments represented the extent of Hickman’s discussion of problem gambling protections in the bill. 

Opposition invoked Georgia’s state pledge and depletion of Georgia Lottery reserves

Opposition came principally from Sen. Marty Harbin, who invoked the Georgia state pledge, which calls for “wisdom, justice, moderation, and courage.”

Harbin spoke extensively against SB 57, citing the need to act with wisdom in supporting commerce that provides a fair transaction between actors. He reiterated that in gambling, “the house always wins.” 

Harbin held that regardless of how much gambling Georgians were already doing – out of state or offshore – it would go against the basic principles of the state to pass the bill.

Harbin also received support from senators opposed to SB 57’s potential depletion of the Georgia Lottery reserve, which could have decreased education funding.  

What does this mean for sports betting in the Georgia Senate?

While the lopsided vote total suggests strong opposition to sports wagering in Georgia, that may be a hasty conclusion to draw. The Senate has yet to hear a second piece of sports-betting legislation. 

Sen. Bill Cowsert’s Senate Resolution 140 and its enabling legislation, Senate Resolution 172, is scheduled for floor debate Monday. Cowsert’s effort would allow voters to legalize sports betting through a ballot question and constitutional amendment instead of the legislative statute that SB 57 required.

The constitutional amendment approach requires a more difficult pathway to legalization than SB 57 (a two-thirds majority in both houses and a ballot referendum as opposed to a simple majority vote in both houses and the governor’s signature), but it is arguably a more binding way to create sports betting in Georgia. 

Lawmakers may have held off support for SB 57 less out of a distaste for sports betting and more in the interest of supporting a pathway that avoids potential court battles

Crossover Day is the last chance for sports betting in Georgia Senate

Crossover Day, the deadline for legislation to pass in its originating chamber before crossing over to the other chamber, is Monday, March 6. How the Senate votes on SR 140 will give Georgians a clearer picture of how senators truly feel about legalizing sports betting in the Peach State.