Back to The Drawing Board: Georgia Sports Betting Legislation Fails
Sports Betting Legal History in Georgia
The final push to legalize sports betting in Georgia came and went – the legislative session ended on April 4 and unfortunately sports betting didn’t make the cut…again.
Georgia is a state with particularly strict rules on gambling as its Constitution bans most forms of gaming so lawmakers have historically struggled to attract proponents especially for new forms of gaming like sports betting. Georgia is also one of the few states with no casinos.
SB 142 was the name of the bill set to legalize over a dozen sportsbook operators in the Peach State this year and SR 135 called for a referendum to allow sports and casino gambling.
While Georgians lost hope for a while that sports betting would ever resurface committee discussions, Rep. Ron Stephens shocked everyone when he amended the two pieces of sports betting legislation and introduced them to his committee on March 28. Despite some apprehension, both pieces of legislation made it to the House floor. Just when circumstances seemed hopeful, that hope was met with radio silence. It never made it to the House floor on April 4, which was the bill’s final chance at survival.
Insult was added to injury when Rep. Sam Watson revealed that they had changed SR 135 to a bill regarding tax on timber and passed it with a landslide 160-6 vote in the House.
Perhaps the reason for the prying efforts this year is because of the nature of lawmaking in general. As a result of this failing bill, the very earliest that Georgia could pass a law legalizing sports betting and other forms of gambling is 2023. The voter ballot to approve it couldn’t come until November 2024, and if all of that somehow goes well despite history telling us otherwise, then sportsbooks would realistically be up and running by 2025.
But because of its lack of regulations and experience in gambling, it’s likely that this launch would take longer for the Peach State than it would in most other states with some form of established gambling market. Tennessee for example, which also had no casinos in their state, took 18 months to launch after being legalized. Tennessee is also the only state bordering Georgia that has a legal sports betting market so until Georgia establishes their own market, Georgians will continue to make the drive north to place wagers.
While Tennessee’s economy benefits from Georgia’s lack of approval for the next year or two, Georgia will be missing out on the millions of dollars they would have been entitled to had they made the jump to legalize.
Sports betting operators seeking licenses would be required to pay a $100,000 application fee alongside a $1 million licensing fee to operate. Eighteen operators were set to be licensed in the state. These calculations don’t even account for the tax rate – operators would also be taxed at a rate of 20% on top of licensing and application fees.