Georgia Sports Betting Bills Die Without a Vote

profile image of Dave Grendzynski
The Georgia State Capitol on August 15, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

It’s the night that the light of hope for legalized sports betting went out in Georgia.

For another year, lawmakers’ disagreement on how to spend tax money killed the effort to authorize sports betting in Georgia.

On Thursday (March 28), the last day of the 2024 legislative session, a committee passed out a proposed state constitutional amendment and a bill authorizing legislation, but neither ever came to a vote in the House.

Georgia’s sports betting initiatives fell through due to Republicans’ refusal to meet Democrats’ demands of allocating the revenue towards needs-based educational funding.

As the House adjourned, Rep. Marcus Wiedower, the House sponsor, expressed his disappointment to PlayUSA about not getting a floor vote. He assured that they will revisit this measure next year. He believes that Georgia should legalize online sports betting, regulate it, and retain the tax dollars within the state.

Why the Georgia Sports Betting Bills Failed

A constitutional amendment requires Democratic votes to achieve the two-thirds majorities necessary to pass the House and Senate. However, Republicans are not unified. Some GOP lawmakers express their opposition to sports betting, arguing that they don’t want the state to endorse destructive and addictive behavior.

Democratic House Minority Whip, Sam Park, advanced Senate Resolution 579 and Senate Bill 386. Despite this, he expressed that he, along with other Democrats, opposes the bills in their present state. The opposition stems from a House committee amendment that permits tax deposits to benefit HOPE college scholarships and pre-K classes.

Park told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “It deviates from the bipartisan compromise in the state Senate that prioritized funding for voluntary pre-K.”

Park proposed the following allocation of revenue:

  • 35% for higher education for citizens with household incomes below Georgia’s median.
  • 35% for higher education for students from rural Georgian counties with populations less than the state average.
  • 25% for voluntary Pre-K programs.
  • 5% to combat gaming addiction.

One outlying factor that may be slowing the process is Georgia’s neighbors also don’t have legalized sports betting. South Carolina does not allow it. The same holds true for Alabama.

The Fight for Sports Betting in Georgia is Not Over

Sen. Bill Cowsert is the Athens Republican who has been leading the efforts to get sports betting legalized. He says the constitutional amendment would have provided more than $22 million for treating gambling addiction and would have offered the most robust problem gaming provisions of any sports betting legislation in this country.

An earlier bill in Georgia would tax 20% of proceeds after paying out winnings to gamblers. Following the upcoming elections in November, the Georgia legislative session is set to reconvene in early 2025. It’s expected that the issue of sports betting in Georgia will be revisited.

If both the House and Senate pass legislation in 2025, sports betting could potentially be launched between late 2025 and early 2026. However, the likelihood of a vote on Election Day seems higher. If such a vote is scheduled for November 2025, the earliest we could expect legalization would be mid-2026.

Sports betting is currently legal in 38 states across the nation. Whether Georgia will join them remains uncertain, as we’ll have to wait until next year to find out.