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Georgia Sports Betting Effort Stuck in Legislative Limbo

As the Georgia legislative session ends with sports betting legislation stuck in the House, debates over constitutional amendments and bipartisan cooperation emerge, shaping the uncertain future of the industry in the state.
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Branimir Ivanov | Senior News Contributor

Updated: Apr 4, 2024

Georgia Sports Betting Effort Stuck in Legislative Limbo

The Georgia legislative session came to a close last Thursday with the future of sports betting in the state hanging in the balance, as the Georgia sports betting legislation remained lodged in the House Rules Committee. This outcome marks the second consecutive two-year cycle where the Senate has successfully passed sports betting legislation, only to see it languish without action in the House.

According to insights shared with PlayUSA by several Georgia lawmakers, there's a growing consensus that the path forward for Georgia sports betting may require a constitutional amendment. This setback means that Georgians seeking legal in-state options for sports betting may face a minimum two-year delay before such options become available. The next potential opportunity for a constitutional amendment on Georgia sports betting to go before voters is in November of 2026, potentially leading to a market launch by mid-2027.

Rep. Marcus Wiedower expressed frustration over the missed opportunity, emphasizing the substantial tax revenue losses and the lack of regulation and protections for individuals currently engaging in sports betting activities. He highlighted significant upcoming events like the college football playoffs and the FIFA World Cup, underscoring the potential economic benefits that Georgia could miss out on due to the stalled legislation.

 

Key Points:

  1. Legislative Gridlock: The Georgia legislative session concluded without progress on sports betting legislation, marking the second consecutive cycle where the Senate's efforts were stymied in the House Rules Committee.
  2. Constitutional Amendment Debate: Lawmakers and industry stakeholders are contemplating the necessity of a constitutional amendment for Georgia sports betting, with potential implications for the timeline and approval process.
  3. Future Outlook: Despite setbacks, there remains optimism among some lawmakers for future progress, emphasizing the need for bipartisan cooperation and public engagement to advance sports betting legislation in Georgia.

 

House Stalls Despite Possible Support

The Senate passed SB386 on Feb. 1, followed by the constitutional amendment SR579 on Feb. 27, giving ample time for the House to address the issue. However, the bill remained dormant until the final day of the legislative session when it was finally moved from the Higher Education Committee. Despite efforts to negotiate its passage out of the Rules Committee, lack of majority support among Republicans proved to be a significant hurdle.

Rep. Wiedower believes there was enough support in the House to pass the bill if it had reached the floor. However, uncertainties surrounding funding priorities, potential opposition from Speaker Jon Burns, and differing party stances complicated the matter.

Opinions among lawmakers and industry lobbyists diverged on the reasons for the failure to advance the legislation. Some cited insufficient Republican support, delays in committee action, shifts in Democratic priorities, or reluctance from House leadership. However, Rep. Wiedower refuted these claims, maintaining that there was sufficient support for the bill, and any delay was a result of deliberate consideration rather than negligence.

Despite the impasse on sports betting, the House managed to pass HB353, which recognized and reformed video gaming terminals, indicating a willingness to engage with gambling-related legislation.

The failure of sports betting legislation in 2024 has prompted discussions about the necessity of a constitutional amendment for its passage. Sen. Clint Dixon's attempt to pass SB386 without such an amendment was unsuccessful, underlining the growing consensus that a constitutional amendment may be the most viable path forward. Lawmakers like Sen. Bill Cowsert see this as a step towards resolving key issues surrounding sports betting legislation, despite the delays it may entail.

 

“Over the next two years, the college football playoffs and FIFA World Cup will be coming through Georgia. The amount of revenue we will lose is astounding.”

 

Uncertain Future

With the Senate's repeated efforts to pass sports betting legislation thwarted by the House, the focus now shifts to the latter chamber. Lawmakers suggest that Senate leadership may defer to the House, waiting for indications of support before taking further action.

Rep. Wiedower remains committed to reintroducing sports betting legislation in the next session, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and public support in moving the initiative forward. However, without a clear demand from constituents, the fate of Georgia sports betting remains uncertain.

As Georgia lawmakers navigate the complexities of sports betting legislation, the future of the industry in the state hinges on bipartisan cooperation, public engagement, and a potential constitutional amendment.

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