Georgia Senate Passes Sports Betting Bill With Constitutional Amendment

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Atlnta Hawks fans hold up foam hands during a game between the Atlanta Hawks and the Washington Wizards in Atlanta, Georgia. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

The Georgia Senate recently passed a sports betting bill that has now made its way to the House. However, a sticking point could be the constitutional amendment caveat that would allow voters to decide the fate of mobile sports betting and online sportsbooks if it passes the House by a two-thirds majority.

Sports Betting Getting Real in Georgia

Senate Bill 386 received strong support with a 35-15 vote to advance it to the House.

However, it should be noted the bill now includes a constitutional amendment after passing by a two-thirds majority and will be voted on by Georgia’s citizens, assuming it gets through the House with at least two-thirds of the representatives voting in the affirmative.

Republican Senator Clint Dixon, the sponsor of the bill, was not a fan of the constitutional referendum attachment. However, the course has been charted by his colleagues and now it will rest with the House to see if they have the votes to get at least two-thirds of their chamber to pass the bill.

Lt. Governor Burt Jones, a Republican from Butts County, gave the bill his stamp of approval when he stated, “I was proud of the bi-partisan effort in the Senate today. We are one step closer to providing tens of millions of dollars to education funding for the next generations of Georgia. I look forward to continued discussions to get this done.”

Let the Voters Decide

Senator Dixon advocated for the Georgia Lottery to govern sports betting and, according to an opinion written by former Georgia Supreme Court Justice, Harold Melton, the sports betting bill could avoid a constitutional amendment if sports gambling was treated like a lottery game.

However, Senator Bill Cowsert was adamant that a constitutional amendment should be added as it would put the power in the people’s hands, assuming it passes by a two-thirds majority in the House. With the voters as the ultimate arbiters, the Georgia lawmakers would finally know the will of the people concerning sports betting in the Peach State.

Even Senator Dixon wasn’t completely opposed to the idea, saying, “I’m not disappointed. I mean, anytime we can put something out for a referendum for voters to vote on, you know, that’s probably the freest thing that we can do, so not too disappointed about that.”

Bipartisan Efforts

As for Cowsert, he was enthused that there was bipartisan support for the constitutional amendment but was not shocked by it.

“I’m not surprised. A lot of us feel very, very strongly that it’s unconstitutional to try and circumvent the voters and call this a lottery game,” Cowsert said.

Savannah Democrat state Senator, Derek Mallow, also voiced his support for the constitutional amendment included in the bill. “We’re going to work to get this bill over the finish line by enabling the constitutional amendment because we’re serious about education, and I’m serious about education,” he said.

The bill, as it is currently constituted, would allow the Georgia Lottery one license and would then have the authority to distribute seven other licenses without a tie to a professional team or organization in the state.

Speaking of which, eight more licenses would be allocated to the following:

  • Atlanta Braves
  • Atlanta Falcons
  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Atlanta Dream
  • Atlanta United
  • Atlanta Motor Speedway
  • Augusta National
  • The PGA

Therefore, a total of 16 licenses would be distributed.

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