Georgia lawmakers fail (again) to legalise sports betting

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In fact, the package of bills that got through the Senate in less than three weeks never even got in front of the full House for consideration.

Two amended legal sports betting bills — a constitutional amendment and enabling legislation — got out of the House Higher Education Committee early Thursday morning, though sources say the committee had the votes to move the package the previous night. That left about 15 hours to negotiate a deal before the session ended, but the Rules Committee — which met at least three times Thursday — declined to consider the bills.

This was the fourth consecutive session during which Georgia lawmakers could not come to a consensus and the second time legal wagering became a political football.

In 2021, state Democrats pulled their support after Republicans passed a controversial voting rights bill. This year, the Republicans again got close, but apparently could not compromise enough on other issues to draw in the Democrats needed to get the two-thirds majority required to pass a constitutional amendment in the House, though they did in the Senate.

Constitutional amendment had richest PG/RG funding in US

Negotiations continued throughout the day, sources said, but as the day progressed, it became clear that there were two distinct camps of thought in Atlanta, and the odds of whether or not legal sports betting would get to a vote depended heavily on which camp was sharing information.

“While this was one of the closer attempts of Georgia getting a constitutional amendment done, the actual vote total won’t be known unless you bring all the liars to the table,” gambling consultant Brendan Bussmann of Las Vegas-based B Global told iGB. “It’s unfortunate that some legislators trust the voters to vote them back into office but do not trust them to have that same opportunity at the ballot box to allow this additional form of entertainment at the Peach State.”

Legalized sports betting rears its head once more in Georgia. Will it ever come to pass? https://t.co/FuBnNAZy9Z via @GeorgiaRecorder

— John Cole (@ColeToon) March 28, 2024

The constitutional amendment, SR 579, was amended Thursday morning to include the richest problem and responsible gambling earmarks in the country — 15% of tax revenue, capped at $22.5m per year.

Sources say that had the resolution reached the floor, a second amendment would have been offered. That one would have cut the problem and responsible gambling funds to 5% of tax revenue and changed where other funds were headed.

“I am impressed to see the state commit meaningful time, attention and funding to preventing and addressing problem gambling services if sports betting were to ultimately come to the Peach State,” responsible gaming advocate Brianne Doura-Schawohl told iGB before it was clear that wagering would not get a House vote.

“Historically, Georgia has ranked one of the lowest in the nation as it pertains to their per capita contributions to this important public health issue. Georgia, with this amendment, now surpasses the 38 states plus Washington D.C. in their contributions to problem gambling from legalized sports betting.”

Minnesota, Missouri could still legalise

Many stakeholders considered Georgia to be the industry’s best shot at adding a new legal wagering state in 2024. Twelve states have yet to leaglise, including two of Georgia’s neighbors, Alabama and South Carolina.

Winning STL: Why legalized sports betting would help Missouri and the Cardinals
[but what about harm to the people?] https://t.co/qg1lt5ZFsL

— Tim McBride (@mcbridetd) March 20, 2024

Lawmakers in Minnesota are still considering multiple bills that would legalise, but don’t have the full support of the state’s tribes. And if an initiative backed by the professional sports teams gets on the ballot in November, Missourians could have a chance to legalise wagering as well.

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