Georgia Drawing Closer to Passing Mobile Sports Betting Bill…Or Is It?

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The Miss Freedom statue sits atop the Georgia State Capitol dome in Atlanta, Georgia. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP.

Georgia is the latest state inching closer to passing a mobile sports betting bill as more and more states gravitate to this untapped revenue stream that has been so hugely successful across the nation.

Let’s delve into the latest developments and envision the future landscape of the online sportsbooks industry in the Peach State.

Senate Passes Bill but Amendment Is Required

It was initially thought a statewide voting referendum would not be necessary to pass this latest version of a sports betting bill in Georgia because it would be governed and regulated under the purview of the Georgia Lottery Corporation.

Nick Fernandez, of Metro Atlanta Chamber, expressed a great deal of enthusiasm, saying: “We believe this bill has brought a win for Georgia.”

Yet, even though Sen. Clint Dixon’s bill breezed through the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee by an 8-2 vote, and then was passed by the Senate, 35-15, the senators decided a state constitutional amendment would be needed, which now places the bill in jeopardy in the House.

Any optimism for a sports betting bill to pass has been dimmed, considering the constitutional amendment requirement necessitates that it would have to pass the House by a two-thirds majority before 38 senators, up from the current 35, would have to support the bill to gain the two-thirds majority in the Senate.

Only then would the voters get their say in a statewide referendum in November.

“This issue is frustrating because so many of us generally agree about it, but year after year, we’ve seen it get stuck,” said Sen. Jason Esteves, an Atlanta Democrat.

However, legislators like Senator Bill Cowsert, an Athens Republican, believe the voters in Georgia should have their say regarding sports betting in the Peach State.

“My counsel would be don’t go spend this million dollars and start investing in this until you know this is constitutional,” Cowsert said. “There will be plenty of challenges.”

As for Governor Brian Kemp, he’s been a bit ambivalent about sports betting, preferring to let the voters decide.

“This is the thing about my position on that: it hasn’t changed,” Kemp said two years ago regarding sports betting. “I’m at the same place I’ve always have [been]. To be able to do that here, it’s gonna take a constitutional amendment. It doesn’t really matter what the governor thinks, you can’t veto a constitutional amendment.”

Georgia’s Pro Teams Say Aye

The state’s professional sports teams are fully backing the bill as they stand to benefit should mobile sports betting become legal. As it is likely, the mobile sportsbook operators will seek to partner with them in exchange for sponsorship money.

The Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks, and Atlanta United FC have formed a lobbying group called the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance (GPSIA).

Atlanta Braves President and CEO Derek Schiller organized the group by bringing the other Georgia professional sports franchises together and said, “We felt it was important that we formed this alliance so that we could advise the Legislature if they’re going to consider drafting legislation.”

Schiller also stated the organization’s objective is “ensuring that this activity — that is happening already — gets regulated in the right way and for us, most importantly, that we ensure that the integrity of the sport is preserved.”

The presidents of those organizations have already made their opinions known through a letter the GPSIA sent to lawmakers that said, “Georgia is the 12th largest state for illegal wagering. It is not going away. That is why we must ensure the industry is above-board and transparent.”

Bookmakers Review will continue to monitor this story and update our readers as events unfold.