Lawmakers and residents are continuing to push for sports betting legalization in Georgia. While the Peach State is one of the biggest in the US for sports, gambling on the activity remains illegal – although some stakeholders are attempting to change that this year.
Last year, two bills, presented by Representative Ron Stephens, were shot down by the state legislature. However, Stephens has expressed that he is hoping to reintroduce something this legislative session that would make betting on sports legal in the state, as reported by WTOC.
Legal sports betting supporters argue Georgia would benefit from the tax money made from sports betting. The push counts with the support of an advocacy group dedicated to legalizing sports gaming in all 50 states called the Sports Betting Alliance, which represents companies such as FanDuel and DraftKings.
“We look forward to working with the legislature to establish a safe and responsible online sports betting market in Georgia. In over half the country, legal online sports betting platforms are providing fans a safe and responsible way to place bets – all while generating significant revenue for state and local priorities,” the group said in a statement retrieved by WTOC.
“Currently, Georgians can only place bets with illegal offshore sports betting websites – unsafe and illicit enterprises that do not offer consumer protections and provide no benefit to Georgia communities,” the Sports Betting Alliance added. “Georgia residents deserve a safe, responsible and legal sports betting market.”
Stephens also says that it is about time that gambling that is allowed in the state — the lottery — is expanded to include not only sports betting but also horse racing and casinos. He said he has never been more confident the Legislature will vote in the session to have a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2024, reports the Georgia Recorder.
It is believed gambling legislation may find a “friendlier” audience in the state Senate this year. Lt. Gov.-elect Burt Jones, a Jackson Republican, sponsored sports betting bills as a state senator in the chamber he will soon preside over. Jones tapped state Sen. Brandon Beach, an Alpharetta Republican who routinely supports expanding legalized gambling in Georgia, to serve on the Senate’s influential Committee on Assignments.
Stephens said gaming legislation will require two bills before Georgia voters would get a final say. One bill would require a constitutional amendment to allow sports gambling, horse racing, and casinos, and the second to lay out exactly how the revenue will be spent. Stephens also said it would be up to local governments to determine whether they want to have an equestrian enterprise and “destination resorts,” which typically feature casinos.
“There’s an appetite for equestrian horse racing and the whole equestrian market, if the local folks are allowed to vote, and I believe they will,” Stephens said, as reported by the cited source. “Then, at some later date, come back with that question of destination resorts (casinos) when the time is right.”
While some lawmakers such as State Sen. Elena Parent believe pairing casinos with sports betting legislation “muddies” the whole issue, Stephens says he is willing to roll the dice and allow local governments to make that call: if their citizens want horse racing and casinos, so be it; and if they do not, then it does not go anywhere.