Gambling legislation was not in the cards this year in Georgia, as a bill that would legalize sports betting never made it to the House floor.
Sports betting and gambling were briefly brought up but only in title. The legislation calling for a referendum to allow sports betting and casino gambling, SR 135, was gutted to insert another matter.
Georgia sports betting stalled after committee passage
Legalizing sports betting in Georgia seemed like an afterthought this session. That was until Rep. Ron Stephens decided to amended both pieces of legislation and introduce them to his committee on March 28.
Stephens’s process received a frosty reception, as many in his committee said they were seeing the bills for the first time that day. Still, both pieces of legislation made it out of committee and were ready for the House floor.
They never made it, though. Stephens’s office was quiet after that committee meeting. The office’s phones went straight to voicemail on the last day of the legislature.
Even if Stephens’s proposals made it out of the House, they could have faced opposition in the Senate. The Senate passed much more limited versions of each proposal in 2021 which rolled over to this year.
Brief flicker of hope in waning hours
It sounded like gambling was at least up for consideration when SR 135 was called to the floor at 8:45 pm Monday night.
That hope was quickly extinguished, though, as Rep. Sam Watson clarified the legislation’s intent.
“I do want to say first of all that this SR 135 has nothing to do with gambling,” he said emphatically. The legislation, now dealing with a tax on timber, quickly passed the House, 160-6.
When is the next sports betting launch window?
It was not going to be a quick process to get sports betting in Georgia up and running. Now, that process is likely delayed at least another year.
Stephens wanted to create a new regulator to oversee gambling and GA sports betting. Filling those positions would have taken time, though, which pushed out the initial licensing date to Sept. 1, 2023.
Few legal options for Georgians
Not legalizing sports betting this year essentially ensures Georgians wanting to wager will be in the black market.
Sports betting in Florida was live briefly in late 2021, although most Georgians likely wish it was not considering that is how Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley bet on football and earned at least a year-long suspension.