Georgia State Senators Make Another Attempt to Legalize Sports Betting
On the second day of the 2024 legislative session, Georgia State Senators began another attempt to legalize sports betting. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee advanced Senate Bill 172 by an 8-4 vote, and the measure now goes to the full Senate for more debate. SB 172 would allow sports betting in the Peach State with the aid of a constitutional amendment and set up a gaming commission to regulate the industry. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) is the bill’s sponsor and said he believes there will be a “push” from some constituents.
In 2023, several bills failed that aimed to legalize sports betting, including online and in-person at sportsbook kiosks. The 2024 legislative session is the sixth consecutive term with at least one bill aimed at gaming expansion on the docket in either chamber.
SB 172 doesn’t legalize sports betting on its own. Lawmakers must draft another proposed constitutional amendment, which would then require approval by two-thirds of the House and the Senate, and approval from Georgia voters. Sen. Cowsert said an amendment is needed because Georgia voters approved a lottery in 1992 when sports bets could only be placed in-person in a Nevada casino. He believes that the legalization of sports betting through a constitutional amendment will reduce legal issues around the law if it passes.
After the rejection of bills to legalize sports betting last year, the search for other paths toward legalized sports betting intensified. One potential option was for the Assembly to deem sports gambling as a lottery, and allow the Georgia Lottery to regulate online sportsbooks. State Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) plans to introduce such legislation, wanting to bring three casino resorts, a pari-mutuel race track, and mobile sportsbooks to the state.
There are differing opinions on destinations for gambling proceeds, with Democrats wanting sports betting to fund needs-based college scholarships, while many Republicans oppose the passage of sports betting on moral grounds. Currently, 38 states and the District of Columbia allow some form of sports betting. It remains to be seen how the debate on SB 172 and the legalization of sports betting will unfold in Georgia.