Known for its pecans, peanuts and sweet Vidalia onions, Georgia boasts a rich history — not only culturally but also in sports.
The Peach State resides in football country, with feet dipped in the waters of the SEC, the ACC and the NFL.
So, too, does Georgia host a historic MLB franchise as well as an organization in the NBA. And who could forget a tradition unlike any other: the Masters.
Alas, as sports-friendly as Georgia is, the state is not as congenial to gambling. Some of the country’s strictest laws against the industry stem from Georgia, preventing, among other verticals, the legalization of sports betting.
While lawmakers have made various attempts to rectify the situation, each proposal has met bitter endings. That includes two bills introduced to chambers in 2020. When Georgia might warm up to regulated wagering remains unclear. For now, a future of legal sports betting in Georgia will wait another year.
The upside is that Georgia has a neighboring state that broke the traditional mold of state-regulated wagering.
Similar to the Peach State, Tennessee does not have casino properties. Tennessee, though, legalized sports betting by green-lighting an industry that was solely mobile and online wagering.
The bills considered in the Georgia Legislature in 2020 were seemingly built from that template and set no cap on the number of sportsbooks permitted to operate in the state.
Future legislation will likely follow this pattern.
That said, the path to legalization is littered with potholes in a state that has historically maintained an anti-gambling stance.
Regulated wagering in Georgia has had the support of the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance, which includes the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta United of Major League Soccer.
Crossing the finish line will obviously need legislative support. But traditionally, the Republican-led state has expressed little to no interest in passing any gambling legislation.
Rep. Ron Stephens, a Republican who sponsored one of the sports betting bills in 2020, noted that as many as 70% of Georgia residents would like to vote on gambling issues. And a majority of them would approve those measures.
While many states across the country have pressed forward with sports betting legalization, Georgia remains in neutral. When that changes is unclear. The state could pass a sports betting bill in 2021, theoretically, which could set the stage for a 2022 launch.
As previously stated, Georgia has not been too keen on legalized gambling. Currently, only the Emerald Princess Casino, a cruise out of Brunswick, offers the traditional gambling environment.
In addition to prohibiting land-based casinos, poker and sports betting, Georgia also forbids horse and dog racing. Only the Georgia Lottery and charitable bingo and raffles offer any sort of gambling outlet for residents.
Lawmakers attempted to pass legislation clearing the way for two new casinos in the state, though those 2017 efforts failed early in the year.
The acceptance of gambling is lacking so much that the aforementioned bill didn’t even include the word “casino,” rather two “destination resorts.”
The state lottery has operated since 1992 and uses its proceeds to fund education services in Georgia. The state also allows charitable games such as bingo and raffles, which received authorization in 1976.
For a brief time in the early 2000s, video poker machines made their way into the state, as a legal loophole was discovered allowing payouts via tickets. By 2002, though, the Georgia government banned the machines.
Even daily fantasy sports contests sit in a gray area. The industry is unregulated in Georgia, though the likes of DraftKings, FanDuel and Yahoo Fantasy operate there. Lawmakers nearly legalized DFS in 2017, but the Senate did not bring it up for a vote. So daily fantasy remains in that gray area.
As Georgia does not feature land-based casinos, and is showing no signs of allowing them to enter the landscape, legalized online sports betting in Georgia would likely resemble Tennessee’s state model of online- and mobile-only wagering.
If follow-up proposals hold any similarities to the bills introduced in 2020, the Georgia Lottery would oversee state-regulated wagering with no limit on how many sportsbooks could operate in the state.
Obviously, this could create quite a competitive environment, one that could generate upward of $60 million in annual revenue, and would allow name-brand operators to put down roots in Georgia. Theoretically, you could bet with such sportsbooks as DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and William Hill, among others, all from the comfort of your own home.
While speculative here, markets offered in other states provide something of a blueprint for what the Georgia online sports betting industry might look like.
Across the country, in states that have launched or legalized wagering, an array of sports is available to bet on. Certainly, professional leagues in the US carry the most weight. And in states where betting on them is legal, college sports have generated interest.
It would seem almost a certainty that any sportsbook operating in Georgia would carry the four major North American pro sports: MLB and the NBA, NFL and NHL.
On top of that are a number of other sports that have grown in popularity in other states:
Even the next tier, considered more as “niche” sports, has drawn interest, such as darts, table tennis and rugby, to name a few. Some states have even allowed esports betting and wagering on the Academy Awards.
An international hub in its own right, Atlanta also stands as a sporting hub. Host of the 1996 Summer Olympics, Georgia’s capital is also home to noteworthy professional franchises:
Each year, Georgia also takes center stage for the Masters, arguably the most heralded of professional golf’s four majors. Played at Augusta National Golf Club, the Masters began in 1934 and has produced some of golf’s most memorable moments.
Of course, most of the area’s pride stems from its college sports. And Georgia’s ties are strong, particularly with football and the four schools that compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Should sports betting become legal, Georgia will no doubt follow the national trend.
While the Georgia Lottery set the minimum age at 18 years old to take part in its games, it would appear more likely that bettors in Georgia would need to be at least 21 years old to place legal wagers.
That is the age set by virtually every state that has launched or legalized sports betting across the country.
No. Georgia has not legalized sports betting in any form, retail or mobile. This will remain the case unless lawmakers can agree on legislation down the road.
The earliest Georgia could legalize sports betting is 2021. If it does, the state-regulated industry could launch the following year.
Our recommendation would be to avoid offshore. While it may seem like a good idea, considering Georgia does not have legalized sports betting, offshore sportsbooks do not answer to any particular regulations. As such, few, if any, consumer protections are in place.
It would behoove Georgia lawmakers to allow bettors to wager on in-state teams, both professional and college.
If this is the case, bettors in Georgia will have plenty of hometown teams to back, if they desire: