Georgia Legislature Leaves Sports-Betting Bill Hanging

The Georgia House and Senate have adjourned without passing a sports-betting bill, although the issue of event wagering is almost certain to rear its head again in the future.

Mar 30, 2023 • 10:01 ET • 2 min read
Trae Young Atlanta Hawks NBA
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The dream of legal sports betting in the Peach State this year appears dead. 

Just after midnight on Thursday, the Georgia Senate adjourned without passing House Bill 237, which was previously soap box derby-related legislation that was gutted to contain provisions authorizing online sports betting sites in the southern state. 

H.B. 237 originally would have designated the Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby as the state’s official soap box derby and passed the House in that form. However, it was amended this month in the Senate to implement Georgia sports betting through as many as 16 online sportsbooks.

Vote shortage

Another piece of legislation, Senate Resolution 394, which would have created a gambling study committee, also failed to pass. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Wednesday morning that sports betting did not have enough votes from either party in the legislature.

“Why would Democrats oppose legislation that many had supported earlier this year?” the newspaper wrote. “They are taking their stance in protest of the GOP push to pass new limits on healthcare treatments for transgender youth that Democrats fiercely opposed.”

At any rate, the attempt was something of a last-ditch effort to legalize sports betting in Georgia this year, as several other pieces of legislation flopped earlier in the 2023 legislative session. That session is now on ice as the House and Senate have adjourned “sine die,” or without a day for their return.

The failure by Georgia lawmakers to pass a sports-betting bill this session will surely disappoint some in the state, as recent geolocation data suggested there is interest in online sports betting by residents. It also leaves unresolved the question of whether legalizing sports betting in the state will require a constitutional amendment, which some legislators believe is the case. 

Given Georgia’s sizable population of sports fans, potential bettors, and professional sports franchises, it seems almost certain that the legislature will revisit whether to legalize event wagering. 

The constitutional concerns could rear their head again when that happens. So, too, could arguments in favor of legal sports betting.

“HB 380, a sports betting bill later became HB 237, also failed to pass,” the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute wrote on Wednesday. “This bill, with a 22 percent privilege tax rate on sports betting income, could offer substantial benefits to support Georgia’s Lottery for Education account and free up additional monies to help need-based aid and expansions in Pre-K public education by requiring the state to responsibly spend-down lottery reserves, when the balance of the account is more than 50 percent of the program’s revenues.”

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