Georgia lawmakers are trying again to legalize sports betting

Needs broad support

Georgia lawmakers are giving legalization of sports betting another chance. Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down PASPA in 2018, which allowed states to legalize sports betting, bills have been introduced every year, but every year the bills remain insufficient.

This week, another bill to legalize sports betting – a bipartisan one at that – was introduced and passed the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries by a vote of 8-4. Senate Bill 172 will now move to the full Senate for further debate.

The biggest hurdle for the bill is how broad support must be for it, since it would amend the state constitution. Therefore, a two-thirds majority in both chambers of the Georgia legislature would be required and would then reach a majority of Georgia voters on the November ballot.

Also up for debate in Georgia is whether or not expanding gambling requires a constitutional amendment. Some, like lead author of SB 172 Bill Cowsert (who is also chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee), believe a constitutional amendment is necessary. The people in this faction include those who believe the law is so unclear that the best course of action is to opt for a constitutional amendment to remove all doubts.

“I don’t see anything to fear from a constitutional amendment,” Cowsert told Fox 5 Atlanta. “I think when you make a policy change like this you should have bipartisan and citizen buy-in for it, so I welcome that.”

Others believe that sports betting can be integrated into the Georgia lottery and thus legalized by just passing a standard bill in the Legislature.

Could be more than sports betting

Cowsert told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “at least” three senators will propose resolutions to legalize various forms of gambling. The three most banned bets over the years have been sports betting, horse racing and casino gambling.

Cowsert tried to go the same route last year and came pretty close, getting 30 votes in the state Senate. Unfortunately, 38 votes were required.

There have been attempts to legalize online poker, but they have yielded no results, and there has been no conversation, at least not publicly, about including the pastime in that effort. Georgia would be an extremely attractive market for any type of online gambling as it is the eighth most populous state in the country.

Georgia is one of the few states that has not legalized sports betting; Vermont is on pace to become the 38th state to do so.

Tax dollars from legalized gambling would primarily go toward funding preschool programs and the wildly popular HOPE scholarship program.

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