In the gambling desert of the Southeast, a seeming oasis has sprung. Prior to the state’s 2023 legislative session, South Carolina Rep. J. Todd Rutherford’s newly proposed bill would pave the way for sports betting near Georgia.
The constitutional amendment H 3095 Joint Resolution is the opening salvo for what should be a busy season for lawmakers across the South who seek to legalize sports gambling. Georgia’s 2023 legislative session will start next month, and — while the priorities and agenda are yet unclear — it’s likely that Georgia sports betting will end up on the docket, too.
Pressure is on for legal Georgia gambling
South Carolina’s proposal only motivates Georgia lawmakers to begin crafting similar bills.
The bill is similar to the spate of measures proposed during the last legislative session, as it would require voters to approve a constitutional amendment to enact sports betting in South Carolina. Much like the state of Georgia during the 2022 legislative session, lawmakers from the Palmetto State proposed a legal gambling bill that failed to make it across the finish line.
Considering South Carolina requires constitutional amendments to be voted on during General Election years, should the measure pass both chambers of the State Legislature and be signed into law by the governor, the earliest that residents could place a legal bet would be in 2025.
Georgia is not tethered to such a timeline, so realistically, residents and visitors could be enjoying legal Georgia sportsbooks by late next year or early 2024.
Potential for Georgia sports betting
While operationally, South Carolina’s effort is of no consequence to representatives and senators in their neighboring state, the political component of the situation is where things get a bit more complex.
Lawmakers living in the Southern sports gambling desert understand the desire of their constituencies to place legal bets and the outdated and disproven moral and legal frameworks behind much of the aversion to it. To spearhead and succeed with legalized sports gambling is inconsequential, so you better believe that legislators in Georgia see South Carolina’s move as another sign of the shifting social winds.
Sports gambling is still illegal in much of the Southeast, but the tide has been turning for quite some time. South Carolina was the first to propose a measure before its legislative session, but other states should follow suit soon. Should Georgia be the next legislative domino to fall, it will be the first step in reviving legal gambling bills that failed last session.