Sports teams are unhappy with Georgia’s reluctance to legalize wagering on sports. Franchise owners firmly believe that sports betting will benefit the industry and make fans more engaged.
The Atlanta Braves (baseball), Atlanta Falcons (football), Atlanta Hawks (basketball) and Atlanta United (soccer) are three organizations that are working together to usher in sports betting in the Peach State. However, their efforts are undermined by the lack of an organized movement. The teams’ executives expressed their disappointment on the matter.
Georgia Can Only Benefit from Sports Betting
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution interviewed the teams’ executives about the fact sports betting is yet to be legalized in Georgia. All of them admitted they feel frustrated but are not going to give up. On the contrary, the teams will reassess their strategy and try again.
Rich McKay, president and chief executive of the Atlanta Falcons, shared his thoughts. As someone who has served as an executive for three decades, he said Georgia can only benefit from the legalization of sports betting. McKay noted that wagering will not only improve tax profits but also boost fan engagement and connect people. He was let down that sports betting was not legalized this year but is optimistic about next year’s legislative session.
McKay does acknowledge that gambling poses certain harms to the integrity of the sports. However, he argues that vigilance can prevent fraud such as match-fixing, giving Europe as an example of a well-regulated region.
The Falcons CEO concluded that bettors will always find a way to play. Therefore, it is best to establish a safe and regulated system than to let people play with shady offshore operators.
The State Is Falling Behind
Other executives agree with McKay on the points about engagement and tax revenue. In addition, Steve Koonin, Atlanta Hawks’ CEO, believes that not legalizing sports betting is a detriment. He believes Georgia is falling behind states such as Tennessee and Indiana despite being larger than them. Furthermore, Koonin believes that legalized gambling has the best processes to manage integrity.
Derek Schiller, the president and CEO of the Atlanta Braves, added that legislation is never easy, especially in Georgia. He admitted that the pro-betting group kept on approaching the issue in a similar way for three years in a row. Because of that, the Braves will take a step back and rethink their strategy, Schiller said.
McKay confirmed that the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United will do the same thing.
Betting Will Provide Opportunities to Grow Sports
Legalizing sports betting will surely boost the value of professional sports teams in the state. Right now, the aforementioned teams have existing agreements with Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in North Carolina. If sports betting becomes legal, sportsbooks will likely team up with the franchises as well.
Even if teams do not directly receive money from the bets, sports betting is a tremendous monetization opportunity. In addition, it will benefit the community as it will connect fans in a way only sports betting can. McKay said that betting has the potential to appeal to younger audiences – something that is crucial for the franchises’ long-term growth.
Koonin is sure that there will come a day when Georgia will legalize sports betting. He only hopes that this day will come in a year or two, not in the next decade.