Georgia has sports betting on its mind.
The sports-crazed state of peaches, pecans, and pimento cheese boasts historic franchises, including the Atlanta Braves of the MLB, Atlanta Falcons of the NFL, and Atlanta Hawks of the NBA. Then factor in Atlanta FC, the state’s MLS franchise that features one of the best fan bases in the league.
And who could forget major events like the Masters? Or the occasional Super Bowl? Or site of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship?
This all goes without even mentioning college football, what with Georgia sitting in the heart of SEC country.
Lawmakers appeared on the verge of passing legislation to legalize state-regulated sports betting. However, efforts failed to push a bill across the finish line. Now Georgians are left to wonder: Will the state legalize sports betting? And if so, what will the state industry look like? We’ve got you covered.
The good news: Georgia lawmakers were on the doorstep of passing legislation related to sports betting legalization.
The bad news: The bill could not gain enough traction and died just before the legislative session ended.
The silver lining: Georgia could take another crack at it next year, as legislation can carry over.
The state House worked to advance legislation that would legalize regulated wagering without the need for a constitutional amendment, as sports betting would be integrated with the Georgia Lottery. The Senate, though, took the other route, noting that state law requires a constitutional amendment for gambling expansion. As the House bill petered out, the Senate measure gained steam and seems like the most realistic option for legalization.
The Senate passed two sports betting bills: SB 142 and SR 135. The first measure sets some of the framework for Georgia sports betting. The second bill serves as the constitutional amendment. If approved by lawmakers, SR 135 will ask voters:
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize sports betting in this state?”
However, the public won’t face this question until they receive their November 2022 ballots. If Georgians approve the legalization of sports betting, lawmakers will then need to finalize the regulatory framework. As a result, Georgia sports betting might not go live until 2023.
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As the Senate bill is written, Georgia sports betting would adopt an online-only model. No retail sportsbooks. Just mobile betting sites and apps.
Such a format might sound familiar. After all, just north of Georgia, Tennessee offers the exact kind of sports betting industry. There, during November 2020, bettors combined for $131 million wagered in the first month.
While both states would feature similarities, one distinction no doubt helped Tennessee flourish that Georgia would go without.
Despite both Senate sports betting bills advancing through a House committee, one specific detail of the bill underwent a drastic change. Initially, the Senate proposed allowing college sports betting though not on institutions located in Georgia. The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee, however, amended the legislation. Before sending it along, the committee dropped wagering on college sports altogether.
So while you shouldn’t have expected the ability to bet on the Georgia Bulldogs or Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, now you might not be able to bet on any college sports. No college football. No March Madness.
Nothing is set in stone, so there still remains an outside shot that something akin to the House proposal could become the framework for Georgia sports betting.
Though ultimately withdrawn because of a lack of support, the House introduced the George Lottery Mobile Sports Wagering Integrity Act. Similar to the Senate bill that has been advanced to the House floor, that proposal would create an online-only sports betting industry, though it would be overseen by the Georgia Lottery. In addition, the House bill would prohibit all college betting.
Where the biggest difference exists is that the House would not ask for a constitutional amendment. State law requires such a move for gaming expansion. But the House argued that, because sports betting would be added to the lottery offerings, a constitutional amendment would not be necessary.
Lottery-run sports betting exists in several states across the country. Some have worked. Some haven’t. In Virginia, for example, up to 12 online sportsbooks could launch, creating a competitive and potentially successful industry.
On the flip side, Oregon only has one betting app, one that does not offer college betting. Such a monopoly has hindered the state from truly capitalizing on regulated sports betting.
It seems lawmakers in Georgia are only focused on introducing online-only sports betting. And even if they wanted to roll out retail wagering, where would those brick-and-mortars go?
In other states, retail sportsbooks find homes at casinos. However, there are no casinos in Georgia. Lawmakers in the Peach State have attempted to legalize casino gambling. As recently as 2020, a proposal emerged to create a constitutional amendment that would authorize the operation of casinos. Like previous legislation before it, though, that proposal could not make it past the finish line before the session ended.
Not all retail sportsbooks have to exist in casinos, though. Some jurisdictions have authorized raceways to house brick-and-mortar sports betting. Georgia has a few of these facilities.
Even sports venues have become destinations for retail wagering. In Illinois, for example, these facilities can obtain sports betting licenses to offer in-person and online wagering within a five-block radius of the venue. Historic Wrigley Field even has plans to welcome in DraftKings Sportsbook down the road.
Similarly, Washington, DC, restricts sports venue betting within two blocks of the facility. Both Nationals Park (home of the MLB’s Washington Nationals) and Capital One Arena (home to the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals) have taken advantage.
If and when lawmakers consider retail sports betting in Georgia, they might consider a similar approach. This would allow the likes of Truist Park (Braves), Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Falcons) and State Farm Arena (Hawks) to offer retail sports betting.
Out west, Arizona is considering sports betting legalization. And if all goes as planned, a golf course that hosts an annual PGA Tour event could be an operator. Apply that to Georgia, and Augusta National could integrate sports betting at the Masters.
Of course, this is all hypothetical. As it stands, it appears the focus remains on online-only sports betting in Georgia.
While Georgia remains without legal sports betting, at least for now, a couple of nearby states provide a regulated wagering outlet for Peach State bettors.
The model that Georgia has used to develop recent sports betting legislation, Tennessee has offered legal wagering since fall 2020.
Six online sportsbooks operate in the Volunteer State. More brands expect to enter the fold in the near future. But as it stands, the current landscape of mobile wagering in Tennessee features the following operators:
The beauty of online sports betting, especially for Georgia bettors, is you don’t need to travel to a retail location. Simply cross into Tennessee, open your go-to betting app and place your wager. Bettors can set up sports betting accounts and claim winnings from their Georgia homes.
Just before March Madness tipped off in 2021, two tribal casinos in North Carolina opened retail sportsbooks.
Each location is powered by William Hill and run by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Just a few miles north of the Georgia border, Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino in Murphy features a 32-foot video wall, four betting windows, and five kiosks.
About an hour further east, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in Cherokee boasts a 90-foot video wall, seven betting windows, and 10 kiosks.
Online wagering remains illegal in North Carolina, so the only way to place a legal wager in the state is to visit one of these two casinos.
Historically, Georgia has not been too eager to legalize, much less expand, gambling.
The Peach State prohibits land-based casinos, poker and sports betting (for now) as well as horse and dog racing. The only gambling outlet in the state is the Georgia Lottery and charitable bingo and raffles.
That said, lawmakers in Georgia have not sat on their hands. Near the end of the 2020 legislative session, for example, a House committee passed a measure that would ask voters if a constitutional amendment should be created to authorize sports betting, pari-mutuel wagering, and casino gambling. A separate proposal was also favored to legalize sports betting.
However, the House ultimately ran out of time on both efforts. The legislative session ended before any more headway could be made.
Earlier in 2020, a group of senators introduced an online-only sports betting bill. But that proposal didn’t even make it out of committee.
It was that measure that was revived late in the legislative session, as lawmakers sought out revenue sources to help ease a budget crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It was the catalyst for the push made late in the year, one that ultimately petered out.
It seemed there was more urgency when the 2021 session began. In the early weeks of the year, a House committee advanced the Georgia Lottery Mobile Sports Wagering Integrity Act, which would replicate the sports betting model launched in Tennessee.
As the Senate made progress on its version of an online-only sports betting industry, support for the House bill began falling by the wayside. That proposal was ultimately withdrawn, clearing the path for two Senate bills that have advanced through a House committee and await potential approval on the House floor.
No. Sports betting remains illegal in Georgia. However, lawmakers in the state have shown urgency to change that and potentially authorize state-regulated wagering in the Peach State.
Two Senate bills have advanced through a House committee and await input from the House floor. If both are passed, that would obviously be a win. However, one of those bills is a referendum that voters would need to approve of in November 2022. If they do, it would not be until 2023 that Georgia sports betting would launch.
Yes, but potentially not all of them. Lawmakers seem adamantly against college betting, so placing legal wagers on the Georgia Bulldogs or Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, or any college team/event in the country would be off-limits. That said, hometown and other professional teams and events would be fair game. So, Georgia bettors would be able to wager on the MLB’s Atlanta Braves, NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, and NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, among others.
Similar to other stats with legal sports betting, Georgia would likely require bettors to be at least 21 years old to place legal wagers in the state.
It isn’t recommended. As Georgia doesn’t have legal sports betting (yet), it might seem like a good idea to wager through an offshore sportsbook. However, these sites don’t adhere to any particular regulatory framework. And they don’t necessarily guarantee consumer protections that you can find with legal and regulated sportsbooks.
Daily fantasy sports sit in a gray area. Georgia does not regulated DFS, yet the likes of DraftKings, FanDuel and Yahoo Fantasy operate in the state. Georgia came close to officially legalizing DFS in 2017 as the House passed a bill to do so. But the Senate never brought it up for a vote. While it isn’t officially legal in Georgia, it isn’t technically illegal.