“Pretty Positive” Georgia Will See Sports Betting in 2024
Last week, Georgia legislators re-opened the door to sports betting discussions in the state. First reported by WABE, representatives from Entain Foundation U.S. (co-owner of BetMGM Sportsbook) met with Georgia legislators on Oct. 17 to discuss the future of gambling in the Peach State.
According to the report, the two groups are working together to pass a gambling bill in 2024 that includes sports betting. The inclusion or exclusion of horse racing and casino gambling is still heavily debated.
“Georgia, as you can imagine, has politically a lot of issues, including the Trump indictment, so there’s a little bit of a distraction at the moment,” Entain trustee George Pacrell noted. “But I feel pretty positive Georgia is going to move (betting) on next year along with a few other states.”
Topics ranging from tax revenue distribution to problem gambling treatment were covered in the Oct. 17 meeting.
Most lawmakers agree that most tax revenue will fund the state’s HOPE Scholarship and Pre-Kindergarten programs, much like the state lottery.
Conflict Over Consumer Protection and Gambling Addiction
Martin Lycka, senior vice president for American Regulatory Affairs and Responsible Gambling at Entain, said that having a regulated sports betting market will “clamp down on any black market” and put the proper consumer protections in place.
However, representatives from the Georgia Baptist Mission Board see the issue differently.
“Sports gambling is one of the most dangerous forms of gambling because of its easy accessibility and its ability to create addiction,” lobbyist Mike Griffin said in an email attained by WABE. “While I know it is being said that many are already doing this kind of gambling anyway, we must understand that just because somebody is doing something illegal does not mean that it should be made legal.”
“If you don’t regulate it, you can’t track it, you can’t monitor it,” Pascrell said. “The only way to penetrate and have an impact on problem gambling in a particular jurisdiction is to regulate it.”
Georgia Sports Betting Background and Obstacles
Several gambling bills have been proposed and ultimately denied in Georgia over the last several years. From a casino referendum in 2020 to three different sports betting bills in 2023, the opposition has continued to win the battle despite the optimism that 2023 was the year.
Georgia’s professional sports teams, including the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Braves, and Atlanta Falcons, have all lent support for sports betting in addition to the slough of lawmakers who have worked to pass legislation.
Whether or not to pass a bill with or without a constitutional amendment was a point of contention throughout the process in 2023, as were gambling addiction concerns and tax revenue placement.
Regarding casino gambling, Georgia is one of the few states that does not have commercial or tribal casinos, so lawmakers must also find substantial upside in investing in the new market.
That said, the very soonest any sports betting could launch in Georgia is late 2024 if lawmakers approve it during next year’s legislative session. Pending the Georgia Lottery’s timeliness in drafting regulations and issuing licenses, it could be early 2025.