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Georgia lawmakers rejected a proposal that would have potentially allowed mobile sports betting to begin in 2023 but proponents are regrouping around separate measures that could still bring betting to the state by 2025 – or potentially year’s end.

The Georgia Senate Thursday voted 37-19 against a bill that would have permitted mobile sports betting under the purview of the state lottery. Had it passed the House and earned the signature of Gov. Brian Kemp it could have potentially allowed Georgia bettors to place legal wagers before year’s end.

As has been the case with previous failed Georgia sports betting legalization efforts, a contingent of conservative, anti-gambling lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Senate opposed the bill on the Senate floor. The bill also included horse racing authorization provisions opposed by some elected officials.

Focus turns to 2025

Proponents are now focusing on several additional proposals, including one that could still allow sports betting this year.

A House-backed bill would also allow mobile sports betting under the lottery’s purview but would not authorize any further gambling expansion, including pari-mutuel or historic horse racing. The bill has been reported favorably out of committee and is expected to be brought to the House floor for a vote this month.

The current legislation requires online sports betting to begin before Jan. 31, 2024, meaning a launch could still come in calendar year 2023.

A separate sports betting measure, if passed, would place a referendum on the fall 2024 ballot and allow Georiga voters to approve sports betting. This would require two-thirds support from both chambers, instead of the majority backing required to pass a bill. This measure is awaiting action on the Senate floor.

Elected officials have been divided about the need for a ballot measure, despite the determinations by leading Georgia legal officials as well as gaming industry lawyers. The Georgia constitution has strict bans on part-mutual horse racing and casinos, but makes no mention of sports betting.

This, legal experts say, permits sports betting without amending the constitution, though it would require sports betting to be considered part of the state lottery. Georiga voters amended the constitution to create the state-run lottery in 1992.

Though it’s too early to tell if either will pass, the constitutional amendment-centered proposal could be viewed more favorably. Politically, punting the decision to voters could give otherwise adverse lawmakers cover from a potentially contentious issue.

Lawmakers in previous legislative sessions had pushed for sports betting via an amendment. This means elected officials could be more familiar with this legislative path and more likely to support it.

Possible market

The legislative requirements for lottery oversight would likely have little impact on most Georgia sports bettors.

The House bill would allow more than a dozen mobile sportsbooks. Though some states with lottery-run sports betting markets are essentially monopolies, this structure would resemble setups in Virginia and Tennessee, both of which have competitive markets.

With its strong professional and college sports presence and large population, Georiga would likely be a target for most major US operators. That includes US market share leader FanDuel, which has an office in the state and has been pushing sports betting legislation, as well as other major players including DraftKings and BetMGM. Caesars operates two retail books at pair of western North Carolina casinos, which are the closest such gaming facilities to the Atlanta metro area, and would also likely seek a license.

These factors could also attract other up-and-coming brands looking to grow in the US including Fanatics, bet365 and Betr. PointsBet and BetRivers have also been among the most aggressive sportsbooks to expand into new markets, but neither will seek a license in Massachusetts, which later this month will become the latest state to take a legal mobile sports bet.

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