Legalization of gambling in Georgia will be back on the table for the 2021 legislative season, with casinos, horse racing and sports betting being advocated together and separately, but while gambling would require a constitutional amendment, wagering on sports is considered to have the highest chance to be legalized of all three for the session which is set to begin January 11.
No Need for Qualified Majority Votes
Casino gambling and pari-mutuel betting on horse racing requires two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate before a measure for a constitutional amendment goes to the ballot, and so far efforts to have this support have been failing miserably for years.
Legalization of sports betting, on the other hand, can be achieved through an amendment of the law which created the Georgia Lottery, and hence would require only a simple majority in both legislative chambers. It is also a relatively new issue having featured in the General Assembly for the first time during this year’s session.
Supporters of sports betting would be pointing to the revenue numbers generated by other states where wagering was legalized, with the latest record on first full month of operation set by Tennessee where in November sports betting generated $131.4 million, while in New Jersey the first full year of sports wagering produced $4.55 billion, with $3.8 billion online bets.
Besides, legalizing sports betting in the state would stop the millions of dollars flowing out of it in illegal wagering, without the state being able to benefit in terms of taxes from them.
Professional Sport Supports the Measure
All 4 professional sports teams in Atlanta, the Braves, Falcons, Hawks and Atlanta United, publicly support the measure and formed an alliance last winter to lobby for it. The teams are looking at sports betting as a means to generate more interest and engage with their fans during times when live audiences are capped to comply with state orders related to the coronavirus outbreak.
They also support the upcoming bill which allocates 20% of state’s sports betting proceeds towards funding the HOPE Scholarship program, which once used to cover the full tuition costs of eligible high-school students in Georgia, until in 2011 a cut in benefit was passed through the General Assembly.
Among the other proposals regarding the use of the tax money from sports betting is to address the state’s biggest 2021 budget gap – health care – as well as the allocation of a portion of it towards low-income families which cannot cover the funding gap in the HOPE program, or to establish a new program in support of student loan repayments.
Some legislators argue that sports betting might undercut the state’s lottery revenues, while others believe the legislature should also consider the pros and cons from legalizing any form of gambling is how it will affect problem gamblers in Georgia and their families.