To Top

Georgia Sports Betting Legalization Chances To Be Determined Wednesday

Written By Matthew Kredell on March 26, 2024
Countdown Clock Georgia Sports Betting

There’s still hope for Georgia sports betting legalization in 2024, but the effort will come down to the final two days of the legislative session.

House lawmakers proposed changes to Georgia sports betting legislation Monday ahead of a possible end-of-session push.

Rep. Marcus Wiedower expressed his plan to have the amended Senate bills passed through the House Higher Education Committee on Wednesday. That is just one day before the legislature will adjourn for the year.

Senate Bill 386 and constitutional amendment SR579 would then have one day to get through the House and a conference committee. There, three lawmakers chosen to represent each chamber would need to work out the differences in the bills.

If the legislature approves Georgia sports betting, Georgia voters still need to approve a constitutional amendment (CA) in November to allow sports betting.

But none of it happens if the House doesn’t pass the bill. Wiedower made his case for Georgia lawmakers to prioritize putting a constitutional amendment in front of voters this year rather than waiting until 2026.

“The CA clearly is putting this to the Georgia voter and whether or not they would choose to allow for wagering on mobile online sports betting to be allowed in the state or Georgia. I cannot think of a better time to gauge the true interest of that in the state of Georgia than that of a presidential election. I think we will agree and I think statistics will back me up 100% of the time, there is no greater turnout than that of a presidential election. Which is my desire of getting a CA on the ballot this year so we can kind of put this to bed. And listen, if I’m wrong, if Georgians don’t want this, no harm, no foul.”

Georgia sports betting effort is ongoing

That Wiedower offered changes Monday to possibly set up House passage was an encouraging sign for legislation that had stalled.

The Georgia Senate passed SB 386 on Feb. 1, adding the requirement for a constitutional amendment on the floor. Then the Senate followed with the constitutional amendment resolution Feb. 27.

House Higher Education held two hearings to discuss the legislation but hadn’t offered any input or direction for the bills before Monday.

At the committee meeting, Wiedower and Chairman Chuck Martin backed the legislation. And Sen. Bill Cowsert, who authored the constitutional amendment, came over from the Senate to offer his support.

“One of my biggest things in this is to allow for those people who are doing this on the black market to bring it into an arena that is legalized and regulated by the state of Georgia for the Georgians that are participating in this today,” Wiedower said.

Changes to Georgia sports betting legislation

Wiedower laid out several changes he planned to make to the legislation Wednesday. The biggest had to do with where to disburse a projected $100 million in annual revenue from Georgia sports betting.

The legislation no longer prioritizes Pre-K funding and provides no guaranteed money to address problem gambling.

Instead, the revenue follows the lottery blueprint of going more broadly to four elements of education: HOPE college scholarships, Pre-K, capital projects (new computers, technology upgrades for schools) and teacher training. Each year when passing the state budget, the legislature and governor would decide how much money goes to each educational area, as well as problem gambling.

“I think when we crack the door open to a host of ideas, the numbers of suggestions that can come from 236 people are quite endless,” Wiedower said. “… I didn’t want to turn this into an Oprah affair and everyone gets a car, and then what happens is nobody really gets anything.”

Wiedower also mentioned increasing the tax rate from 20% to 25%.

The legislation still creates the potential for 16 sports betting apps, seven standalone licenses for online sports betting operators, eight tethered to Georgia professional sports teams and entities and one for the Georgia Lottery.

As passed by the Senate, 80% of sports betting revenue went to education, with Pre-K funded first, 15% to problem gambling and 5% to bringing sporting events to Georgia. Prioritizing fully funding Pre-K was critical to the Senate passage.

Cowsert said he didn’t agree or support the proposed House changes to Georgia sports betting revenue distribution. However, he wants the House to pass the bill and get it to a conference committee.

“Keep the ball rolling. Let’s see what the House does, if the House even has an appetite for voting. And then we can get it into conference, agree, disagree, and hammer it out. I do think everybody needs to be flexible to get there.”

Minority party support key to passage

Passing a constitutional amendment in Georgia requires a two-thirds vote from each legislative chamber. That requires votes both from the Republicans that make up a majority of the Georgia House and Democrats in the minority.

Democrats in the committee expressed concerns with removing the priority for Pre-K funding. They indicated a desire to see funding for needs-based scholarships, school lunches and historically black colleges and universities.

However, Wiedower responded that they were out of time to have these discussions.

Cowsert said Georgia sports betting will not pass without minority party support.

“I’ve watched the majority become narrower and narrower over my years. There was a time when we had a two-thirds majority in the Senate and we could do what we wanted to do. But we don’t now and the House doesn’t either, so that requires us to work together and negotiate together to get to the right place.”

Legalizing sports betting would be a major gambling expansion for the state. If it does get approved by the legislature, then voters, could Georgia online casinos and retail casinos be next? Keep track of online casino legislation through our online casino bill tracker.

Photo by PlayUSA
Matthew Kredell Avatar
Written by
Matthew Kredell

Matthew Kredell serves as senior lead writer of legislative affairs involving online gambling at PlayUSA. He began covering efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling in 2007 after federal passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act disrupted his hobby of playing small-stakes online poker. He has since interviewed more than 300 lawmakers around the country and written extensively about online gambling legislation. He has led coverage of bills to legalize online gambling in most states. A lifelong Angeleno and USC journalism alum, Matthew started his career working as a sportswriter for a decade at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy Magazine, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

View all posts by Matthew Kredell
Privacy Policy