A group of Georgia lawmakers are once again signaling their intention to bring the idea of legal sports betting through the best sportsbooks to Peach State citizens on the next election ballot.
Georgia is widely regarded as one of the most sports-centric states in America. It boasts professional sports teams like the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, and MLB's Atlanta Braves, as well as one of the most significant NCAA programs in the nation, the Georgia Bulldogs. It also features America's sixth-largest population with 12.7 million residents.
It's somewhat curious that lawmakers in the state have yet to welcome a legalized sports betting platform for Georgia's sports-obsessed fans.
That could change with recent efforts to re-open legislative talks surrounding Georgia sports betting, starting in the next session of the state's legislature, which kicks off in January.
Push by Georgia lawmakers
Joint economic development and tourism committee co-chairman Brandon Beach last week acknowledged his push to allow Georgia citizens to determine the fate of legal sports betting in Georgia on the 2024 election ballot.
He wasn't alone in his desire to hear from the voters.
“These things (smartphones) weren’t even invented way back at the time whenever we started the gaming scenario," House Chair and state representative Ron Stephens said in an interview last week. "So electronics has come a long way. We’ve had the request from all of our major league teams, you know, baseball, football. They all want it for fan engagement. It’s a time that we need to just ask the folks if this is what they want. More and more states are doing it. So, the question is, is it time?”
Proponents of Georgia legal sports betting have tried and failed in the past to move the idea of legal sports betting in the Peach State forward.
It's not as though there's been zero interest in launching a legal sports betting platform in Georgia. It always seems to be a topic of conversation among lawmakers there, but talk is where it has ended.
Attempts the last couple of years to even hear the merits of a legal sports betting Bill in the state have failed, including House Bill 237 earlier in 2023. That bill was obviously doomed, failing to even be brought up on the House floor for debate.
The latest attempt from Sen. Brandon Beach could change all of that. He's recently made comments about the financial benefits of the best sports betting apps and a retail platform.
"We are funding North Carolina’s education system with Georgia license plates up there gaming,” he said. “So I think it’s something we have to let the voters decide.”
More on the benefits
Beach came with projections for a legal sports betting platform and betting sites in Georgia, and an idea of just which groups would benefit from the tax revenue generated.
Up to $900 million annually could be generated in Georgia after the maturation of a legal sports wagering platform, according to Beach. Infrastructure development, health care, and education are state programs that would directly benefit from sports betting revenue in the Peach State.
Half of the proceeds would be earmarked for infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, and rail, according to Beach, with the other half going to health care, education, and gambling addiction and mental health initiatives in Georgia. About 10% would go to Georgia's Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
A constitutional amendment is required for Georgia lawmakers to legalize a sports betting platform in the state, and that’s where voters are needed.
The Georgia legislature reconvenes for its regular session on Jan. 8. You can bet that legal sports betting and the incredible tax revenues that are being generated nationwide will be discussed early during the session.
After that, it's hoped that November 2024 could be a landmark month for the Peach State. Voters could either vote in favor of a sports betting legalization bill, or decide to kick that can down the road again.