Sports-Betting Efforts in Georgia Take a (Good?) Downhill Turn

It’s clear there is still an appetite to pass some sort of sports betting-related legislation in Georgia this year.

Last Updated: Mar 17, 2023 9:46 AM ET Read Time: 2 min
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The latest push to bring online sports betting sites to the Peach State involves an alleged hijacking of soap box derby-related legislation. 

A handful of bills tied to legal sports betting flopped earlier in Georgia’s legislative session, but the dream isn’t dead. That’s because a Senate committee amended another piece of legislation on Thursday to include the legalization of online sports betting by early 2024, according to the Associated Press.

While the new text of the bill is not yet available, the latest version of House Bill 237 would authorize mobile sportsbooks in Georgia without a constitutional amendment. The debate over the need for such an amendment loomed over the earlier discussions about Georgia sports betting. 

Soap-box hijacking?

H.B. 237 was originally legislation that would designate the Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby as the state’s official soap box derby. That was before the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee overhauled the bill to include online sports betting, which didn’t sit right with some lawmakers. 

“When you hijack a soapbox derby and put sports betting on the back of it, every person that was on the fence in the state of Georgia has just now picked a side of the fence,” Sen. Mike Dugan reportedly said. “So I can’t support this.”

But, given the bill was eventually amended, it’s clear there is still an appetite to pass some sort of sports betting-related legislation in Georgia this year. The state is now in the minority when it comes to legal sports betting, and recent geolocation suggests that residents are interested in changing that fact. 

The new H.B. 237 would reportedly put sports betting under the watch of the Georgia Lottery Corp., with as many as 16 online sportsbooks taking wagers from residents 21 and older.

There could be further movement on the matter as early as next week, as an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter noted the new bill could get a floor vote in the Senate then. The newspaper also reported earlier this month that Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns was not ruling out the passage of a sports-betting bill this year.

“We have a 40-day session last time I checked, and we’re going to have a 40-day session this year,” Burns reportedly said at an Atlanta Press Club luncheon. “We don’t close the door on anything. We’re going to continue to talk.”

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