• Home
  • News
  • Betting
  • Georgia sports betting hopes end in 2023 with future legalization efforts still unclear
igamingnext photo
Georgia lawmakers did not pass sports betting legislation during the state’s 2023 legislative session, effectively ending any legalization hopes this year – and possibly years to come.

Though lawmakers entered 2023 with hopes the Peach State could finally legalize betting, many of the same concerns that had blocked wagering resurfaced again this year. Though Republicans spearheaded the legislative efforts, and GOP Gov. Brian Kemp supported the move, conservative, anti-gambling lawmakers remained resistant to what would be the state’s large gambling expansion since the creation of the state lottery in roughly three decades earlier.

Without enough Republican support, GOP supporters turned to Democrats to get he required votes. But Democrats opposed the wagering bill, reportedly over opposition to unrelated legislation pertaining to transgender individuals. This reflected a similar Democratic party-wide opposition following the passage off a voting restrictions bill in 2021.

The bill missed a key deadline but was revived as a part of an unrelated soap box derby recognition bill. Ultimately, the last-ditch effort didn’t even make it to the full floor for a vote.

Ballot measure concerns

Further complicating the legalization efforts was debate over the need for a constitutional amendment.

Georiga’s constitution has restrictions on casino gambling, but prominent legal analysts – including a former state Supreme Court justice – argued that did not extend to sports betting. This analysis determined sports betting only required an act of the legislature, not a constitutional amendment by voters, if placed under the purview of the lottery, which had already been approved by voters.

With 2023 hopes over, proponents in next year’s session seem like they may shift toward a push for a constitutional measure on the 2024 ballot. This move could also give political cover, as it puts the decision on to voters, instead of the legislature.

Getting there may still be difficult. A sports betting bill without the constitutional provisions requires simple majorities in both the House and Senate; a ballot measure requires two-thirds super majorities in both chambers.

If the sports betting provision reached the 2024 ballot, it appears solid odds Georiga voters would approve the provision. Six of seven states with ballot measures to approve sports betting, either independently or as part of larger casino expansion, have passed.

California, the only state to reject such a measure, had significant opposition from tribal gaming stakeholders. Though there will likely be opposition from conservative, religious and other anti-gambling groups in Georiga, there is no significant existing gambling-related organization that would oppose such an expansion in the state and polls both nationwide and locally show voter support.

If a ballot measure is approved by voters, it would mean legal sports betting would not come until 2025 at the earliest. Lawmakers could try passing a legislative solution again in 2024, meaning sports betting could come by year’s end, but this seems increasingly unlikely, especially after the failures in 2023.

Large state prohibitions continue

Georgia’s continued sports betting prohibition means four of the nation’s eight most populated states will remain without a legal wagering option.

Despite tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions from many of the nation’s major sports betting operators, California voters overwhelmingly rejected an online wagering authorization ballot measure last year. California, with more than 40m residents, is far and away America’s most populated state.

Texas, No. 2 in population, seems unlikely to approve sports betting before 2024, and possibly later. Florida (N0. 3) briefly allowed wagering on the Hard Rock sportsbook app, but that was suspended as proponents await an appeal on the court decision that originally permitted the launch of the sportsbook.

Georgia is the nation’s eighth most populated state and one of the nation’s fastest-growing. Combined, California, Texas, Florida and Georgia represent nearly 30% of the US population.

Similar posts