Georgia Gambling Efforts Pass House Committee, But Odds Remain Long

Home » Georgia Gambling Efforts Pass House Committee, But Odds Remain Long

Posted on: March 29, 2022, 03:17h. 

Last updated on: March 29, 2022, 03:18h.

Gambling in Georgia is limited to its state-run lottery and charitable fundraising games, but members of the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee feel it’s time to consider expansion.

Georgia gambling sports betting casino Ron Stephens
Longtime Georgia lawmaker Rep. Ron Stephens says the state is long overdue to end its prohibition on casinos and sports betting. But the Republican faces an uphill battle in winning over his House and Senate colleagues. (Image: USA TODAY)

The House committee yesterday moved forward Senate Resolution 135 (SR135) and Senate Bill 142 (SB142). The resolution is the more important of the two, as it proposes an amendment to the Georgia Constitution to allow “sports betting and other forms of betting and gambling.”

SB142, which seeks to create the Georgia Sports Betting Commission to regulate sports wagering, means little unless the resolution passes. And those odds appear long, as the Georgia General Assembly is set to adjourn its 2022 session next Monday, April 4.

Time Ticking

For a proposed constitutional amendment to reach voters, a resolution must first receive two-thirds majority support in both the George House and Senate. With only four session days remaining, it’s unlikely that SR135 will quickly gain such support in a state that has been perpetually at odds with commercial gaming.

State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) chairs the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee. A stern proponent of allowing Georgians to decide whether to join the more than two-dozen other states that have legalized sports betting, Stephens is responsible for this week’s consideration of SR135 and SB142.

Prior to his committee voting on the measures, Stephens told members that sports betting is already going on in Georgia through illegal offshore websites.

All you are doing is taxing and regulating,” Stephens said. “And that’s because they’re already doing sports betting.”

Stephens’ “they’re” is in reference to Georgians who are currently betting through unregulated channels. It’s estimated that as much as $1.5 billion is wagered illegally on sports in Georgia each year.

“It’s on your phone. But the money is going offshore to Antigua and other places,” the Republican added. “You’re taxing and regulating, that’s all.”

Voter Power

Though it appears unlikely that Georgians will be asked to legalize sports betting — and possibly casino gambling — during the November 2022 election, some residents might rest assured knowing that the resolution would give voters much power over regulated gambling.

Senate Resolution 135 requires that casinos, horse racetracks, sportsbooks, and other gaming venues only be considered in counties where voters have lent their blessing to such developments.

Georgia would certainly attract much interest from the US gaming industry should it move to legalize casinos. Georgia is the eighth-most populated state with more than 10.8 million residents. Georgia’s sturdy median household income of around $82,000 also renders the potential opportunity attractive.

The Georgia Lottery is one of the richest in the US. The lottery facilitated more than $5.7 billion in sales last year alone. Over its 28 years in operation, the Georgia Lottery has benefited more than two million students seeking higher education with scholarships to the tune of $12.6 billion.

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