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Sports betting simplified
Georgia is one of the great sports meccas in the United States. Atlanta is home to the NFL Falcons, MLB Braves, and NBA Hawks. And there is word that the NHL will soon return to the Peach State for a third bite at the apple. And then there is college football, led by the defending SEC and national champion Georgia Bulldogs. Atlanta is one of the wealthiest cities in the USA and a financial and entertainment industry powerhouse. Yet with all of that going for it, Georgia lacks legalized sports betting.
State of Georgia Sports Betting Overview
The Peach State has some of the strictest laws against gambling, much less sports betting. Very little gambling currently takes place in Georgia right now. Gambling activities are currently limited to the state lottery, Powerball, and charitable raffles. Not even bingo or pull-tab tickets are legal right now. If you’re willing to take to the Eastern shores, the Emerald Princess Casino is the state’s only cruise ship casino and, even then, still can only offer slot machines.
Maybe the one bright spot for Georgia sports bettors is that, like many states, while there is no law allowing online betting, there is also no law against it. This means Georgians can play daily fantasy games on sites like DraftKings and FanDuel.
State of Georgia Sports Betting Timeline
In 2023, it was another year, another legislative session with high hopes surrounding the possibility of legal sports betting in Georgia. SB 57, HB 380, and SR 140 were all introduced during the legislative session and seemed to have decent backing from some legislators. However, all three died on March 6, 2023, with HB 380 not even receiving a vote in the House. The Senate voted down the other two bills, sending legislators back to the drawing board hoping to get something passed in 2024.
In 2022, the legislative year began with high hopes. In January, House Speaker David Ralston suggested allowing Georgians to vote on whether they want casino gaming in the state and figure out what it looks like if the answer is yes. He added that there was an appetite to pass a gambling bill in 2022 that had not been there before.
Rep. Ron Stephens tried to amend two pieces of gambling legislation passed by the Senate in 2021, SR135 and SB142. SR135 would have put gambling on the November ballot for Georgians to approve, while SB142 legalized sports betting. Unfortunately, those efforts were hampered, and the session ended on April 4 with no gambling bills passed. The next session began in January 2023.
Meanwhile, efforts in neighboring North Carolina heated up in April before falling apart a few weeks later. This would’ve given Georgia residents another legal sports betting option beyond Tennessee sportsbook apps.
In 2021, Rep. Ron Stephens redoubled his efforts in the new session and unveiled HB86 as a follow-up to last year’s bill. The bill proposed online-only sports betting, remote registration, and up to six licensees. However, the new bill did not allow for collegiate wagering.
Stephens’ colleagues in the Senate did not wait for HB86 to navigate the House committee system and offered their bill, SB142. The bill was similar to the House version but notably diverged on betting on college games. SB142 and its companion, SR135 (which puts the question on a referendum for voters), passed through the Senate in early March 2021.
The end of the legislative session on March 31 loomed over the bills’ proceeding through the House. Because of disagreements about a controversial voting rights bill signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp, sports betting was drawn into a political battle along partisan lines. The arguments were so contentious that, at one point, the NAACP publicly announced its opposition to sports betting in Georgia. Thus, despite their passage through the Georgia Senate, both measures did not progress past the committee in the House of Representatives.
In 2020, Georgia got off to a late start in trying to legalize sports wagering. Lawmakers weren’t interested in GA sports betting until neighboring Tennessee legalized the activity.
In February, a group of Senators dropped S 403, an online-only sports betting bill similar to what passed in Tennessee. The bill called for a 10% tax rate and a $900,000 annual license fee.