Feb 10, 2023 - Sports

Renewed hope for sports betting in Georgia

Sports betting laws, by state
Data: American Gaming Association; Cartogram: Axios Visuals

Sunday's Super Bowl in Phoenix will be the first held in a jurisdiction with legalized sports betting — an industry that is booming nationally.

  • But in Georgia, it's still not legal.

Driving the news: A new lobbying coalition at the Capitol hopes to change that this year, after many failed attempts.

  • The Metro Atlanta Chamber has teamed up with Atlanta’s professional sports teams to make a "more concentrated effort" to legalize sports betting here, the chamber’s public policy vice president, Marshall Guest, tells Axios.

Why it matters: Supporters point out that the state is missing out on tens of millions in annual revenue from Georgians already casting bets online but not paying tax on those bets.

What’s happening: Guest says the chamber backs the policy because the new revenues could contribute to education and workforce development — and because Atlanta's sports teams believe it could help draw in more fans.

The big picture: 33 states (plus Washington, D.C.) already have a live, legal sports betting market, Axios Sports' Kendall Baker and Jeff Tracy report.

  • Per a recent AJC poll, nearly half of Georgians support legalizing it here, too.

By the numbers: 50.4 million U.S. adults are expected to wager $16 billion on Super Bowl LVII, per the American Gaming Association. Both figures are roughly double last year's record tally.

  • 34% of NFL fans say the expansion of legal sports betting has made games more exciting.

Zoom in: Past Georgia attempts to legalize the wagers have been caught up in parallel efforts to legalize casinos and horse racing, Guest says. ​"If you look back at what has occurred in previous years … combining them together has made it difficult to pass any of them," he said.

  • The coalition hopes a standalone bill, which they expect to see introduced imminently, will be easier to pass.

Of note: A separate bill proposing both sports betting and fixed-odds horse race betting has already been introduced by a bipartisan group of state senators.

  • But the bill's sponsor Sen. Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro) told GPB they may look at breaking the two issues apart.

Be smart: Lawmakers have debated whether new forms of gambling would require a constitutional amendment to pass, which would mean a two-thirds legislative vote and popular referendum.

  • According to a legal opinion from a former state supreme court justice that the chamber sponsored, sports betting alone does not need an amendment, Guest said.

What they're saying: GOP House Speaker Jon Burns said this week he is open to a standalone sports betting bill.

Between the lines: Georgia already has one form of legal gambling: the state lottery. That revenue funds the state's HOPE college tuition scholarship, college completion grants and pre-K.

  • The chamber coalition wants new sports betting revenue to feed into that same Georgia Lottery pot.

Will you be placing any bets from Georgia this weekend? (We won’t tell anyone.)

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