Georgia: sports betting, gaming legalization push falls short for 2022

Georgia’s efforts to legalize sports betting and gaming at large this year have now failed, following the conclusion of the General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session on Tuesday. The gambling industry is set to remain prohibited in the Peach State, at least for one more year.

Lawmakers in the state attempted a last-minute push on two bills: one seeking to make all forms of gambling legal in the state through a constitutional amendment, and a second proposal that sought to regulate how sports betting would have been conducted in the state.

The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee passed both measures in late March, which would have implied a notable gaming expansion for the state. Currently, the Georgia Lottery is the only legal form of gambling in the Peach State, while other forms of betting -such as horse racing, sports gaming, and casino gambling- are deemed illegal.

The nearly 60-page Senate Resolution 135 aimed to ask voters whether Georgia should allow “sports betting and other forms of betting and gambling” in the state. It required support from two-thirds of each chamber to become law. Under the proposal, if a county sought to allow casinos or tracks in their areas, local voters would also then have had to approve it.

Georgia State Capitol

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 142 was dependent on the resolution. It called for the creation of a Georgia Sports Betting Commission, which would have been in charge of managing an online sports wagering system had the constitutional amendment passed. The sports betting bill and ballot measure were also proposed in 2021, to no avail either.

This time around, both proposals reached the same fate as in prior years: with the Georgia General Assembly adjourned for 2022, the motions have now been shelved. According to Committee Chairman Ron Stephens, a Republican who sponsored the legislation in the House, the industry estimates Georgians illegally spend $1.5 billion in sports betting per year – a trend that is set to continue for now.

Revenue from sports betting would have been earmarked for HOPE college scholarships and pre-k education. The legalization of sports gaming was backed by the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance, a coalition of pro franchises Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta United.

According to Stephens, legalization would have allowed the state to protect consumers and provide new tax revenue from gaming already occurring – although illegally so. However, Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that divisions in regards to law specifics were far too large for the proposals to advance.

While the House proposed a tax rate at 20%, the Senate sought to keep it at 16%. There was division as well about the number of online partners: the House wanted 18 licensed betting partners -nine tethered to pro sports teams or venues hosting events, and nine to independent online operators-, while the Senate wanted a minimum of six online operators.

“It really feels like Georgia was trying to shoehorn too many disparate categories of gambling into the proposed constitutional amendment bill at the 11th hour,” said sports betting lawyer Daniel Wallach. “The House, in particular, was trying to take on too much in a gambling-averse state, and it would have been next to impossible to address all of the betting things.”

Georgia is currently one of only four states that don’t have commercial or tribal casinos, pari-mutuel wagering, racetrack betting, iGaming, or sports betting, along with Hawaii, Utah and Vermont. This situation isn’t set to change, at least until next year, when lawmakers will most likely push for legalization one more time.