As usual, at the start of the year, the newly opened legislative session in Georgia was expected to witness new attempts to legalize sports betting in the state, in spite of the ongoing opposition of anti-gambling groups. Accordingly, in mid-February, Senate Bill 57 was brought up for discussion by Sen. Billy Hickman.
As anticipated by opposing parties and to the disappointment of its supporters, Bill 57 was defeated in the Senate.
37 “No” Votes VS 18 “Yes” Votes
As Associated Press informs, the Bill received 37 “no” votes and 19 “yes” votes. Senators who disapproved of the legalization of gambling were accompanied by lawmakers who consider legalizing sports betting would require a constitutional amendment.
Now, lawmakers have until the clock strikes midnight on Sunday and a new week begins to rethink the matter.
If it would have been given the green light, Hickman’s bill would have asked the state lottery to start offering sports betting and horse race wagering options, with the winnings at the track being paid by either the horse racing track itself or a different company, and not from the betting pool.
Also, the same bill would have seen the proceeds reach college scholarships and prekindergarten, which are two of the programs mandated by the Constitution that the Georgia state lottery is already actively supporting.
An Ongoing Battle
At the same time, a different bill that would legalize betting on sports betting while excluding horse race wagering is also waiting for a decision in the Georgia House.
House Bill 380 was introduced by Rep. Marcus Wiedower in February, asking for the legalization of sports betting without any mentions of horse race wagering. A proposal to allow voters to decide for themselves with the help of a referendum could also receive a favorable vote in the Senate.
In the meanwhile, the Peach State’s Constitution continues to ban pari-mutuel betting and casinos. This, however, is not stopping various forms of unregulated sports betting to take place with the help of underground sportsbooks.
According to Sen. Brandon Beach, this issue is “more harmful to people”, which is why there is a growing sense of inevitability regarding the state ultimately deciding to embrace sports betting one way or the other.
Plus, the state could benefit from a new source of revenue from gambling which is already a current occurrence in its illegal form. The pressure is even greater in the context of sports betting being made legal in 34 US states.
The Constitutional Amendment, a Complicated Matter
A constitutional amendment would require a majority consisting of two-thirds of voters counted in both of the General Assembly’s chambers. It would also ask for approval by a majority of voters that would need to be obtained throughout the state.
Since Republicans do not have a two-thirds majority in the two legislative chambers and in the context of several party members refusing to support gambling because of their moral beliefs, a standard sports betting bill would be the ideal solution.
These bills only require a simple majority of votes from both chambers along with the signature of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. The latter has already expressed his will to see sports betting become legal in Georgia.