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Georgia’s Legal Sports Betting Dreams Die in House of Representatives

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Georgia’s Legal Sports Betting Dreams Die in House of Representatives
A general view of State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

Discussions about launching a much-desired legal sports betting platform in the state of Georgia sometime in 2021 came to an end Thursday when the state’s House of Representatives adjourned their 2021 legislative session without addressing or voting on twin Senate Bill aimed at getting the ball rolling on what could have been a major revenue generator for the state.

The Georgia Senate, earlier this month did a lot of the heavy lifting in regards to a potential legal sports betting platform. They were able to approve a constitutional amendment and were able to create a bill with guidelines for legal sports betting before sending it to the House. Each sailed through the House rules committee process, only to be bogged down after that.

Any legislation would gotten the subject of sports betting on the 2022 ballot, giving Georgia citizens the final say.

Serious Support

Georgia had been experiencing some serious momentum toward sports betting legalization before the close of the most recent legislative session ended any 2021 dreams. Sports teams, state Senators as evidenced by two pieces of legislation, SR 135 and SB 142, and business leaders were all behind any push to bring about legal sports betting to the state. The Constitutional amendment, for example passed the Senate with a 41-10 vote.

The Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, the Hawks and Atlanta United have also come out in support of a legal sports betting platform as a revenue generator and a mitigator of some of their COVID-19 losses. Atlanta Hawks CEO went on record last month saying: “Billions of dollars a year are already being gambled in Georgia and the state gets nothing, no tax, no benefit”.

Ramifications

The state of Georgia isn’t the only entity missing out on legal sports betting – the US scene as a whole will not be able to take advantage of a major Peach State contribution. College-scholarships, rural broadband, and healthcare in rural areas will all also have to wait for any funding from taxes off of any legal sports betting platform.

Georgia is 8th-most populous of the 50 United States with almost 11 million residents and is home to what can only be described as a bustling underground betting scene – a scene that will continue to thrive absent of legalization in Georgia. It is estimated that $1.5 billion is wagered illegally on sporting events in Georgia. Legalization would have mitigated that and allowed the state to benefit off of a practice that has been and will continue to be rampant among Georgia citizens.

“All we’re doing is capturing the revenue on an activity that is currently going on,” Rep. Ron Stephens recently said about the attempts to legalize.

Senate/House Divide

The fact that the Georgia House of Representatives failed to hear or debate a legal sports betting platform was the final straw that ultimately ended a potential legal sports platform from launching in Georgia in 2021.

But there had been some underlying differences between the Senate and the House as to what legal sports betting in Georgia would look like. In fact, partially because of the toxic political landscape in Georgia, there seemed to be enough bipartisan opposition and party bickering to make any final draft of a potential legal sports betting bill moot. There was a sense the last month or so that Democrats and Republicans would not be able to find any common ground on anything for the foreseeable future.

The House was against any sort of betting on college athletics, while the Senate only barred betting on Georgia college teams. The House wanted an online-only platform while the Senate was more open to retail and kiosks accompanying any mobile platform.

The amount the industry was to be taxed and how that tax money would be spent highlighted the other differences between the Chambers.

Translation – there was still a ton of work to do in order to pass legal sports betting legislation before lawmakers convened their 2021 session. It is unclear whether or not the House and Senate would have been able to come to any sort of agreement before the legislative time-period ran out, but hopes were that the House would have at least made a more robust attempt.

So…

Any further conversation of legal sports betting in the state of Georgia will have to wait until at least 2022 when the legislature will meet again. Lawmakers will be working hard once the legislature convenes again to get the question of legal sports betting on the 2022 election ballot, paving the way for a platform in January 2023 at the earliest.

Georgia, at the start of 2021 was one of a handful of states in the running to be the first state to welcome legal sports betting in 2021. That confidence didn’t translate into any tangible return for sports betting proponents, this year.

So, Georgia bettors now look for their lawmakers to get serious in 2022 and somehow find a way to get the question of legal sports betting on the November election ballot. Any 2021 legal sports betting dreams are over, 2022 is essentially dead and 2023, possibly 2024 becomes the target date for launch, unless lawmakers somehow get together and rightfully agree to put the matter to voters on the 2022 ballot.

A lot can happen in 12-18 months. Stay tuned