Georgia sports betting is on the back-burner once again. The House adjourned its 2021 Legislative Session with no conclusion to the two proposed bills.
With no final verdict, citizens remain unable to voice their official opinion on the issue.
Sports betting could still find its place on the state’s 2022 ballot, but we won’t find out until next year.
Looks like Tennessee isn’t getting a new sports betting neighbor anytime soon.
Georgia House struggles with sports betting specifics
In March, two sports betting measures worked their way through the Georgia Senate with little friction. The House, on the other hand, ate up months of legislative time debating particulars on its version of the bills.
Back in February, a House committee approved HB 86, sending it to the House floor for further consideration.
Once there, trouble started brewing. The bill required approval by two-thirds of both the House and Senate in order to move to a vote. But in the Georgia House, Republicans hold the majority at 103-76. A two-thirds majority vote would require 118 votes in favor of the bill.
Despite Republican representatives sponsoring the bill, many party members remained weary.
Then, more misfortune entered the picture for bill proponents.
Unrelated voting rights bill halts sports betting
One month after HB 86 hit the floor, a Georgia voting rights bill entered the picture and became the focus of both the House and the Senate.
The bill, SB 202, includes measures that impact absentee voting, early voting days, and the use of ballot boxes. It faced criticism from state Democrats and moved attention away from the sports betting bill.
State Democrats weren’t the only ones that raised concern, however.
When the 2021 NBA All-Star game was held in Atlanta this March, players asserted that Georgia’s recent voting regulation bill puts voters’ rights at risk.
Georgia Republicans denounced the claims of players, leaving the NBA and other professional sporting leagues to reconsider their support of a sports betting bill in the state.
Pleas from third-party organizations such as the Georgia NAACP followed, calling on lawmakers to reject sports wagering.
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp ultimately signed a voting rights bill into law at the end of March, leading many House Democrats to retract their sports betting support.
Georgia House adjourns with no conclusion
Mere hours before the session’s final adjournment, sports betting finally advanced through the House Rules committee. Ultimately, though, it failed to see a full floor vote.
Legislators from both sides of the aisle voiced their opposition, producing little to no chance of the measure clearing the House.
Had the bill had passed this year, it would’ve advanced to a vote on the 2022 ballot. The measure has one final chance to pass when the 2022 session opens up in January.
But failed efforts in 2020 followed by another attempt that fell short in 2021 doesn’t give much hope for next year.
If committee members fail to settle on a decision for the third year in a row, legal Peach State sports betting likely won’t see the light of day in until 2025.
Georgia sports betting bill details have to be ironed out
Committee members continue to debate how sports betting should function in the state.
According to the House bill, sports betting would exist as an online-only industry and feature remote registration, just like in Tennessee. The bill calls for:
- Tax rate of 16%
- Official league data
- Minimum of six sportsbooks
- Prohibited college sports betting
The House bill calls for revenue to be allotted to educational programs, rural health care, mental health services, and broadband internet expansion.
Additionally, professional sports leagues would be permitted to partner with sports betting operators. Four of Atlanta’s major professional sports teams have voiced their support for legalizing sports betting in the state:
In this scenario, the Georgia Lottery would simply add sports betting to its list of offerings instead of leaving the decision to a state-wide vote.
On the Senate side, lawmakers decided to pass two bills that called for a constitutional amendment via voter referendum on the November 2022 ballot.
According to this bill, the Georgia Lottery would serve as the regulating body.
While the Senate bill is similar to that of the House, the tax rate is set at 10% and would only ban wagering on college sports teams in Georgia.
Senate lawmakers want to allocate the majority of tax funds toward Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship program.
Now that sports betting won’t see renewed discussion until 2022, legislators have plenty of time to iron out the details.