Despite the best, and disruptive, efforts of pro-wagering betting lawmakers, sports betting will not be passing in Georgia in 2023. As Senators celebrated Sine Die in the early hours of the morning, the final bill that the sports betting industry tied its hopes to died, and with that, so too died any hopes of wagering in the Peach State this year.
Why did Georgia sports betting legislation die?
It is almost a surprise that it took so long for sports betting to officially die in Georgia this year. After three previous bills attempting to legalize wagering failed earlier in the session, a group of Senators hijacked another bill via an amendment.
HB237, filed by Rep. Leesa Hagan, was originally intended to encourage children to spend more time outside by establishing the Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby, to be the official soap box derby of the state.
After unanimously passing the House vote 168-0, the bill reached the Senate Committee, where it fundamentally changed to sports betting legislation after a series of amendments.
Much to the displeasure of Hagan, who eventually asked that the SoapBox Derby element of the bill be removed, the bill headed toward the Senate floor in its new guise.
However, as the Senate gathered for Sine Die yesterday, the last day of the session, HB237 was never called to the floor, sealing the fate of the sports betting legislation.
In truth, HB237 stood very little chance of passing after the way a first-term lawmakers’ bill was hijacked.
In Committee, the Vice Chair, Sen. Mike Dugan, said: “Whoever came up with this idea just set sports betting back five years. “When you hijack a soap box derby and put sports betting on the back of it, every person that was on the fence in the state of Georgia has just how picked a side of the fence.”
Three more bills fail/die
HB237 was a last-ditch effort to scrape sports betting over the proverbial line in Georgia this year following the failure of three bills earlier in the session.
SB57, SR140, and HB380 all failed or died before crossover day, effectively killing any realistic hopes for expansion in 2023.
One of the key debates in this year’s legislative session was the role of a constitutional amendment.
SB57 was a resolution that sought to legalize sports betting and racetracks without a constitutional amendment, requiring just a simple majority in both Chambers and bypassing an election. However, the measure lost a vote in the Senate before crossover day.
SR140 did get a majority of support in the Senate, but as it was a constitutional amendment vote, it required a two-thirds majority support, which it failed to earn.
Finally, HB380 died on the House floor on crossover day, meaning it could not move any further. That too would have required a constitutional amendment but was never called to the floor on the last day for legislation to move between the chambers.
So with the demise of HB237, Georgia’s sports betting hopes will have to wait another year. A key hurdle for lawmakers to overcome in the future will be deciding whether a constitutional amendment is required or not. If enough legislators can throw their weight behind one measure, sports betting will stand a much bigger chance of making it through at the next attempt.
But, as everyone knows, politics is never that simple.