Georgia online sports betting hopes finished for 2023 as proponents look to 2025
Georgia’s 2023 sports betting hopes ended Monday when lawmakers failed to advance legalization bills by a key deadline. Proponents will now turn to efforts that can bring legal wagering in 2025.
Multiple proposals to legalize sports betting have been defeated in Georgia’s 2023 legislation session, leaving Peach State voters no legal avenues for legal wagering in the coming years. One of the nation’s 10 most populated states and home to several marquee professional and college sports programs, it remains one of the key remaining jurisdictions that have no legalized betting.
Lawmakers approached sports betting legalization through two primary avenues this legislative session.
One sports betting bill would have potentially allowed mobile wagering as early as this year. The bill would have put sports betting under the purview of the state lottery. Gaming legal analysts as well as a former Georgia Supreme Court justice argued this structure would not require an amendment to the state constitution, potentially allowing mobile wagering to being before year’s end.
Other sports betting proponents argued sports betting would require a constitutional amendment. This would mean two-thirds of lawmakers in both chambers would have to approve the amendment and then voters would have to back legalization on the fall 2024 ballot as well, meaning the first bets could not be placed until 2025 at the earliest.
Ultimately, both fell short.
The failure to advance the lottery-run proposal without the ballot measure means efforts will turn to a voter referendum.
Lawmakers in previous legislative sessions had also centered their approach around the measure. Elected officials have said this helps prevent a possible legal challenge. It also gives lawmakers potential political cover by punting the decision to voters.
Georgia lawmakers are set to return for the 2024 legislative session next January. If the ballot measure is approved, it would come on the 2024 ballot in November.
Voters in six states – New Jersey, Colorado, Maryland, Arkansas, South Dakota and Nebraska – have approved sports betting ballot measures, either as stand-alone proposals or part of larger gambling expansions. California is the only state where voters have rejected sports betting ballot measures.
Though more than 30 states have approved sports betting, Georgia remains a holdout. Conservative, anti-gambling Republicans in the GOP-controlled General Assembly have opposed sports betting on moral grounds, creating a significant political stumbling block that has helped prevent legalization.
If Georgia approves sports betting, it could draw the attention of most major operators.
Recent proposals would allow more than a dozen mobile sportsbooks. US market share leader FanDuel, which has an office in Atlanta, as well as DraftKings and BetMGM would likely seek licensure. Caesars operates retail sportsbooks in western North Carolina, currently the two closest legal in-person betting options in the Atlanta metro area, and would also be among the likely applicants.
Because of its population and sports history, other up-and-coming brands in the US such as bet365, Fanatics and Betr would likely apply. Other national brands including PointsBet, Barstool and Rush Street Interactive’s BetRivers could also be interested in the state.
Tennessee is the only state bordering Georiga with legal mobile sports betting. North Carolina lawmakers are set to consider mobile sports betting legislation this year.