Georgia Legislators Meet With Gambling Expansion Advocates

Written By Derek Helling on October 24, 2023
georgia capitol building

Georgia’s legislature won’t start to move on issues for months. That means the time is ripe for lobbyists hoping to persuade members of the body to take up their causes in 2024.

Lobbyists representing one of the world’s preeminent gambling companies recently met with members of Georgia’s legislature on the issue of gambling expansion. Amid expressions of optimism, the lobbying alone might not be sufficient to produce progress.

Gambling lobbyists descend upon Atlanta

Whether 2024 will be the year that Georgia enacts some legislation expanding gambling in the state is still very uncertain. At the very least, however, some members of the state’s legislature are attempting to do so.

Stanley Dunlap of the Albany Herald reports that several state legislators met with representatives of the Entain Foundation US on Oct. 17. Entain owns half of BetMGM in the United States and is among the foremost gambling companies worldwide.

Dunlap provided no information about how many legislators were part of the meeting or which members of the state’s governing body participated. According to Dunlap, a representative of a lobbying firm “said several Georgia legislators asked for assistance to push Georgia to join several dozen other states that legalize retail and online sports betting and other types of sanctioned wagering.”

The lobbyist added, “I feel pretty positive Georgia is going to move (betting) on next year.” It seems others in the state share that sentiment.

Optimism for more gambling in Georgia in 2024

Among those who have also expressed optimism for progress in 2024 is Georgia Sen. Bill Cowsert. In August, Cowsert expressed his belief that his colleagues would get behind his effort to legalize sports betting in Georgia via a constitutional amendment.

In March, Georgia’s legislature concluded its session without passing any gambling expansion measures. The term saw many contenders,  including Cowsert’s.

Among the main reasons for more positive vibes in 2024 is because it is already an election year. That should limit the debate on the necessity of a constitutional amendment.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be any debate in Atlanta, though. That debate simply won’t include whether to attempt to expand gambling via a constitutional amendment. Other matters could still prompt fraught discussions.

Issues that remain in the new year

During the 2023 term, legislators were divided on other facets of the gambling expansion conversation. Those were whether to isolate the attempt to legalize sports betting only and what to do with the tax revenue from expanded gambling.

Some of the proposals representing more robust gambling expansion included brick-and-mortar casinos. Others added pari-mutuel wagering on horse races. Then, there was the issue of what to do with the money.

Currently, revenue from Georgia Lottery ticket sales supports a state scholarship program for colleges and universities. Some members of the Georgia legislature pushed to add to that funding.

Meanwhile, others wanted to see the new funds go toward a separate program that similarly granted education funds but did so in a way that was more based on students’ financial situations.

Those are still issues that Georgia legislators will hash out in 2024. That process may have already begun. For certain, lobbyists for entities like the Entain Foundation are not letting lawmakers in Georgia forget about gambling expansion.

Photo by Brynn Anderson / AP Photo
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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