Georgia no closer to online sports betting as 2022 legislative bill fails

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Legislators in the US state of Georgia have failed to pass a bill which would legalise sports betting before the end of the 2022 legislative session.

The legislative session began on 10 January and ended on Monday 4 April, by which time Senate Resolution 135 – which proposed a statewide referendum on the legalisation of sports betting – had failed to pass through the state’s General Assembly.

SR135 was introduced by Rep. Ron Stephens for the second year in a row in 2022, and while the bill passed the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee late last month, it failed to reach the Assembly in its sports betting-focused format.

Instead, the bill was amended to remove all sports betting components, which were replaced with legislation dealing with a tax on timber.

A further bill, Senate Bill 142, set out how sports betting would be regulated if voters approved a referendum. This too failed to gain the necessary approval prior to the end of the legislative session.

Now, lawmakers in Georgia have no choice but to wait until 2023’s legislative session to rekindle the sports betting conversation.

Although the state will have another chance to legalise betting next year, the time required to set up a new regulator to oversee gambling will likely delay any initial licensing date until September 2023 at the earliest, meaning punters in the state are unlikely to have any regulated online wagering options for at least the next 18 months.

Unlike in many other parts of the country, sports betting faces widespread opposition in Georgia and the neighbouring states. 

Florida saw an active online sports betting market briefly in late 2021, before it was quickly shut down after a matter of just weeks. An attempt to include legalisation on Florida’s 2022 election ballot fell through in January, as a campaign to secure some 900,000 signatures on an operator-funded petition failed to reach its target.

Political action committee Florida Education Champions, which ran the campaign supported by almost $37m in contributions from DraftKings and FanDuel, put out a statement after the failure saying that practical difficulties caused by increasing cases of Covid-19 had “decimated our operations and ability to collect in-person signatures.”

Legislation also faces significant opposition in North and South Carolina. Only Tennessee, Georgia’s neighbour to the north, currently boasts an active legalised sports betting market, after launching in 2020.

In Alabama, despite the sports betting-focused Senate Bill 294 being approved by a Senate committee in March, House Speaker Mac McCutchen said this week that there will not be a gaming bill passed during this legislative session, which is set to adjourn tomorrow (7 April).

About the author

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Conor Mulheir

Conor entered the gaming industry in 2018 producing high-level live event content for audiences in London, Amsterdam and São Paulo. From 2020, he went on to report news and commission exclusive content for various gaming media brands before joining iGaming NEXT as editor in January 2022.

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