Pressure For Legal Sports Betting In Georgia Puts Tennessee On The Clock

Posted on January 9, 2020 - Last Updated on March 20, 2020

Just as Georgia peaches spoil if not used in time, there is a window of time for Tennessee to get the maximum benefit from legal sports betting. Pressure for Georgia sports betting from within that state shortens that window.

Another prominent voice in the Peach State recently went on the record to support legalization. That number seems to climb all the time.

Another important voice in Georgia joins the chorus

Ed Clark, president of the Atlanta Motor Speedway, recently voiced his support for legalization in an interview with 11Alive. Clark harped on the fact that wagering is happening on the “black market” right now and the state is missing out on revenue.

“I think it’d be a great way to generate revenue for our state. And it wouldn’t change anything anyway,” said Clark.

Clark has a vested interest in legalization because of his role at the Speedway. He wants to see a full-fledged casino at the Speedway, complete with a legal sportsbook.

There is some respite for Tennessee in the news out of Georgia. Unlike in the Volunteer State, legalizing wagering in the Peach State may require a constitutional amendment.

What it will take to get sports betting in Georgia

If that’s the case, it’s a win for Tennessee’s coffers. Amending a state constitution is an intentionally rigorous process.

Potential amendments to the state constitution require a supermajority vote (2/3 approval) in both chambers of the legislature. The measure then also has to survive the governor’s desk.

If the proposed amendment clears those hurdles, the final step is a voter referendum. That requires a simple majority (50% of the vote plus one) in that step, however.

Not only does that open the door wider to potential defeat, but it also extends the calendar. For example, the ballot measure has to clear the state government in time to get onto the ballot for the next statewide election, which is months in advance.

Every day that Georgia delays is a day that Tennessee can take more action from Peach State residents. In order to get the benefit, however, legal books in the Volunteer State need to start operating. Like the lifespan of the produce in your refrigerator, the clock is ticking.

Why Georgia sports betting support creates a crunch

The bottom line is that the fewer of Tennessee’s neighbors have legal wagering on sports, the more lucrative Tennessee sports betting can be. That’s especially true because legal sports betting in Tennessee will be online.

As long as wagering in the Peach State remains in the shadows, that incentivizes Georgians to cross the border and place legal bets in the Volunteer State. When Georgia rolls out its own legal sportsbooks, that incentive fades.

In order to take advantage of that, however, Tennessee has to act. Although legal, sportsbooks aren’t actually accepting wagers from Tennesseans yet.

The latest projections have legal books in the Volunteer State firing up in time for the 2020 NBA playoffs. If that happens, Georgians could start making the trek in mid-April.

It’s unclear how long Tennessee will reap the benefits of Georgia’s complacency, however. The pressure to put the Peach State on equal footing just gained another cheerleader.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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