From Peach Bowl Bets to Online Wagers – A Look at Georgia’s Gambling History

In spite of a noticeable uptick in calls for legalizing sports betting in Georgia over the past few years, the state has done nothing to address the issue as of April 2024.

Issues such as the appropriateness of a statutory approach vs. a constitutional amendment, the appropriateness of tax rates and license fees, and the distribution of the resulting funds continue to divide Georgia’s legislature. Top GA online casinos also await the conclusion to this predicament.

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The state has been observing its neighbors, such as North Carolina and Tennessee, push ahead with legal, regulated sports betting as this legislative drama continues.

Georgia State Capitol
Photo in public domain of the Georgia State Capitol

The Importance of Sports in Georgia

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of sports betting, you can’t ignore the pervasive cultural and identity-forming nature of sports in Georgia. Whether it’s football, basketball, or baseball, Georgians are devoted fans of their own teams.

Both the Bulldogs and the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech are very competitive and have devoted fan bases at the collegiate level. In football, the Bulldogs are unstoppable, having won a slew of national titles. Every Saturday in the fall, college football takes over the state, with supporters either cramming into stadiums or cheering from homes and bars.

If you’re looking for a professional sports franchise, Atlanta is home to five: the MLB Braves, the NFL Falcons, the NBA Hawks, the WNBA Dream, and the MLS United FC. In a memorable 2021 World Series victory, the Braves sent the city into a frenzy. With two trips to the Super Bowl under their belt, the Falcons are no strangers to selling out Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Additionally, the Hawks have a devoted fan base and are a playoff contender. From its inception in 2017 until its most recent championship in its second season, Atlanta United has been nothing short of remarkable. The team has led the Major League Soccer in attendance.

A large portion of Georgia’s GDP comes from the sports industry, which employs thousands of people and brings in billions of dollars annually. As a sports mecca, Atlanta has played home to major events such as the Olympics, Super Bowl, World Series, NBA, and NCAA finals.

And so, under the Gold Dome, the sports betting debate rages on, but for the millions of Georgians who stick with their teams through thick and thin, the games themselves will always be front and center. Regardless of the outcome of betting on the sports, the passion for them is not going anywhere.

The Sports Regulations in Georgia

Strict control of gaming has a long history in Georgia. Think back to the late 1800s, when widespread suspicions of corruption led Georgia to drastically cut back on lotteries. Throughout most of the following century, the state imposed stringent regulations on all forms of gambling, including sports betting.

The Georgia legislature has recurrently blocked bills to authorize sports betting, despite mounting public pressure. Online sports betting was the subject of numerous legislation in the 2020 and 2021 legislative sessions, with supporters claiming the practice would bring in millions of dollars in additional tax money.

Disagreements regarding whether or not to permit casinos and horse racing contributed to the bill’s ultimate failure in the House in 2021, despite its passage in the Senate. Legislation pertaining to sports betting was also considered in the 2022 session but ultimately did not pass due to time constraints.

Questions including tax rates, license fees, and funding distribution have been major roadblocks, along with the question of whether to use a legislative approach or seek a constitutional change.

Congress in 2024

One potentially changing measure that emerged from the 2024 legislative session was SB 386, a bill that had support from both parties. Formerly a contentious issue, the bill would have authorized internet sports betting without the need for a constitutional amendment.

The passage of Senate Bill 386 in February sparked optimism that sports betting would be nearing completion. But the House rewrote the measure to call for a vote of the people, citing the need to alter the constitution as their justification. The endeavor once again failed as the session came to a close since there weren’t enough votes to approve the revised version.

The new legal threshold of two-thirds legislative approval plus majority voter approval makes the legalization of sports betting in Georgia very improbable to occur before 2025.

Advocates Keep Their Hopes High

Proponents of legalized sports betting in Georgia continue to have faith in the future despite the obstacles. A recent survey indicated that most state voters are in favor of legalizing sports betting, and estimates indicate that it might bring in more than $100 million in yearly tax income.

The Atlanta Braves and other major sports teams are persistent in their calls for legalization, claiming the activity will bring in fresh revenue for the state and attract more spectators. With the passage of a sports betting measure, Georgia would become one of more than 30 states to allow the activity in the past few years.

Expressing Disapproval

Legal sports betting has more advocates, but its detractors won’t go away. Some worry that families and individuals may face more financial difficulties as a result of gambling expansion and the resulting rise in addiction rates. Some have questioned whether or not the anticipated tax money will come from new sources and not only diverted from existing ones, such as the lottery.

Gambling is morally objectionable to some Georgians, who believe the state should not support it. Some people are concerned that if sports betting becomes legal, it might be the first step on a “slippery slope” toward other forms of gambling, such as casinos and horse racing.

Where Sports Betting Goes From Here

Legislation pertaining to sports betting in Georgia is still in a state of flux following years of discussion. Disagreements on crucial matters have time and again prevented the House and Senate from passing a measure, despite rising public support and the possibility of additional tax money.

There will be increasing pressure on Georgia lawmakers to take action or risk falling behind the other states that have legalized sports betting. Due to the lengthy legislative process and the need for voter approval in a referendum, Georgians will not have access to regulated sports betting alternatives until at least 2025. Sports betting in Georgia is still in its infancy, but the long and beloved history of sports is fuelling the upcoming change.

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