Legal Sports Betting Being Discussed in Georgia
Lawmakers in Georgia are looking at a resolution that could lead to a state law amendment that would legalize in person betting in facilities that have a license. The bill, House Resolution 380, would see the creation of a new set of rules and regulations by the Georgia General Assembly. The bill did not mention how much the licenses would cost or what tax rates would be set.
There is also no mention of online/mobile sports betting in the bill. The bill does break down where the tax revenues would go, with education being the focus. House Resolution 380 is only applicable to sports betting.
Georgia Has Always Been Conservative On Gambling
Historically, Georgia has been one of the most conservative states when it comes to gambling. The only forms of gambling allowed in Georgia are the state lottery and charity bingo. There are currently no casinos in the state.
The only real gambling options for Georgians are the two cruise ships that allow you to gamble when off the coast and in international waters. The state lottery was only legalized in 1993 which gives you a better sense of how new the idea of gambling of any kind is in Georgia. There was a crackdown back in 2002 on video poker machines that were operating across the state. The same thing happened with Internet Café that authorities realized were a hub for illegal gambling back in 2011.
An Amendment is Not Required but Makes More Sense
Deputy legislative counsel D. Stuart Morelli has mentioned that an amendment to legalise sports betting may not be required because of the ambiguity of the language in the constitution.
Article I, Section II, Paragraph VIII of the Georgia constitution clearly prohibits specific forms of gambling, including pari-mutuel betting, casinos and lotteries other than the Georgia state lottery. There is no mention of sports betting specifically. Morelli mentioned that asking a judge to clarify that passage of text in more specific language could lead to the conclusion that sports betting is not prohibited.
Legalizing sports betting without an amendment could see a lawsuit brought to the state, similar to the situation that happened in Rhode Island earlier this year.
Morelli has given his advice to the Senate committee stating that any sports betting bill is sure to face legal opposition. Therefore, an amendment would be the best way to ensure solid legal ground for the proposed bill. In the same way that the constitution does not mention sports betting specifically, those that are opposed could argue that sports betting falls under casino gambling. It's a solid argument considering most of the states that allow legalized sports betting have sportsbooks located in casinos.
The Senate Committee Heard from Some Major Players
It was important for the committee to hear from local voices on the issue, something that many in Georgia feel is necessary for this bill to even be considered. That happened during the Senate committee's first meeting back on September 3rd. They met with representatives of the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Hawks.
This time in their second meeting, the committee heard testimonies from some of the biggest names in the sports betting industry. The likes Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings, FanDuel, the PGA Tour and the MLB. A joint statement released by FanDuel and DraftKings argued that any bill to come out of the Georgia Legislature must include provisions for mobile betting apps, a competitive marketplace and a variety of products such as in-game wagering.
Legal sports betting is still a long way from becoming a reality for gamblers in Georgia. That being said, the first step to making it a reality has been taken. There will be a lot of resistance, especially from religious groups, as is the norm in the Peach State but hopefully both sides can come to a resolution that makes sense for everyone involved.