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Georgia Legislature Fails to Pass Sports Gambling Legislation

Despite optimism, Georgia's General Assembly fails to pass sports gambling laws in 2024, citing disagreements over tax revenue allocation. This article explores the state's ongoing opposition, leaving Georgia behind in the nationwide trend of sports betting legalization.
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Branimir Ivanov | Senior News Contributor

Updated: Apr 1, 2024

Georgia Legislature Fails to Pass Sports Gambling Legislation

Despite early optimism surrounding the possibility of sports gambling gaining traction in the Georgia General Assembly, the legislative session concluded without any action on the proposed measures. The historically opposed stance of the Assembly on gambling issues proved to be a significant hurdle once again.

During the session's final days, the House Rules Committee held two key pieces of legislation related to sports gambling: Senate Bill 386 and Senate Resolution 579. However, neither of these measures advanced to the full House floor for consideration.

 

Key Points:

  1. Despite early optimism, the Georgia General Assembly failed to pass sports gambling legislation during the 2024 session, marking another instance of the Assembly's historical opposition to gambling initiatives.
  2. The inability to reach consensus among House lawmakers regarding the allocation of tax revenue generated by sportsbooks, along with concerns about transparency and accountability in fund utilization, hindered progress on the proposed sports gambling measures.
  3. Georgia's stagnant stance on gambling, dating back to the authorization of the state lottery in 1992, contrasts with the growing trend of sports betting legalization across the United States, leaving the state behind while 38 others and the District of Columbia have already implemented sports gambling laws.

 

A major point of contention among House lawmakers was the allocation of tax revenue generated by sportsbooks. House Minority Whip Sam Park emphasized the importance of transparency regarding the utilization of these funds for the benefit of the state. Without a clear plan in place, many House Democrats, including Park, withheld their support for the sports gambling initiatives, preventing the Republicans from attaining the necessary two-thirds majority.

Georgia's stance on gambling has remained largely unchanged since the authorization of the state lottery in 1992. Despite recent indications of public support for sports betting, evidenced by a 2023 survey showing 52% voter approval, lawmakers have struggled to navigate the complexities of introducing new forms of gambling.

State Senator Clint Dixon, the original author of SB 386, initially believed that sports gambling could be treated as an expansion of the existing lottery system, thus bypassing the need for a statewide ballot referendum. However, this viewpoint was not shared by his colleagues, leading to amendments requiring a constitutional referendum for SB 386 to become law.

Senate Resolution 579, introduced by Senator Bill Cowsert, aimed to seek voter permission for the General Assembly to regulate sports gambling, but faced similar obstacles.

Despite efforts to advance sports gambling legislation, Georgia's powerful religious interests, notably the Georgia Baptist Convention, continued to exert influence in opposition to gaming expansion. Suzanne Guy, a member of the Convention's Public Affairs Committee, expressed concerns about the potential dangers associated with legalizing sports gambling.

Opponents argue that gambling addiction and social ills could increase if sports betting were to be legalized, while proponents point to potential tax revenues and economic benefits.

 

“Certainly, this is profoundly dangerous for Georgians and opens up all kinds of dangers.”

 

Moreover, discussions surrounding the logistics of implementing sports gambling, including licensing, regulation, and oversight, added layers of complexity to the debate. With Georgia's failure to pass sports gambling legislation in the 2024 session, the state remains on the sidelines while 38 other states and the District of Columbia have already implemented sports gambling laws. Any further progress on this issue is unlikely until at least 2025, leaving Georgians and stakeholders to continue debating the potential merits and drawbacks of legalizing sports betting in the Peach State.

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