The hopes were high that Georgia would be one of the next big dominos to fall when it came to legalizing sports betting in 2023. However, with no sports betting bills crossing over from one chamber into another before Tuesday’s deadline, the effort to legalize sports in the Peach State is dead for the year.
Last week, SB57, a bill to bring racetracks and sports betting to Georgia without a voter referendum lost a vote in the Senate. While that loss didn’t help sports betting’s chances in the state, there were still several pieces of legislation live in the statehouse aiming to legalize sports betting both with and without a constitutional amendment and a voter referendum.
Early in the day Tuesday though, the hopes for sports betting in Georgia took a serious blow when SR140, which would institute a constitutional amendment to expand gambling to allow sports betting. During debate, several amendments were attached to the bill, including one to allow pari-mutuel wagering and other expansion like casinos and one to change the scope of where tax money from the venture would go in the budget.
None of the amendments had the traction to get attached to the bill. Nonetheless, the bill lacked the two-thirds majority necessary to advance a constitutional amendment, though the majority of voters did support the measure.
The effort to legalize sports betting with a constitutional amendment died early in the day while HB380, a bill to legalize sports betting without a constitutional amendment kept hopes in the state alive until midnight on Tuesday. However, the bill failed to make it to the floor before the session expires.
Georgia will now have a year to recover and reconsider the approach to gambling expansion and sports betting in the state.
It was a year of several different approaches to gambling expansion in the state, with several different bills beyond the two mentioned introduced over the session.
Former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton wrote an opinion that there is a way to expand gambling without a voter referendum in January which provided support to some of the bills like HB380 which tried to skirt the constitutional amendment.
In hindsight, Melton’s opinion did not offer as much cover as supporters had hoped. During the debate on SR140, multiple lawmakers voiced the desire to bring this issue to the voters. Come next year, it will be interesting to see whether or not legislators will put their support behind a bill that could face a legal challenge even if it does have an easier path to passage in Atlanta.