Does sports betting in Georgia have a new life?

Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said Aug. 9 that she was calling for a constitutional amendment to allow sports betting and casinos in the state.

Last Updated: August 12, 2022 10:30 a.m. ET
Reading time: 2 mins

Is there suddenly hope for sports betting in Georgia again?

Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said Aug. 9 that she was calling for a constitutional amendment to allow sports betting and casinos in the southern state.

“This will serve as a permanent source of revenue to ensure wider access to education,” Abrams said during a speech on his economic proposals. “We can afford it and we have to.”

It would take more than just a nod from the governor to launch legal sports betting in Georgia. Indeed, a constitutional amendment would be needed, which would require the approval of two-thirds of the state legislature and a majority of voters at the polls.

In 2022, the Georgia Senate approved a bill that would ask voters if they want to legalize online sports betting. However, the legislation died in the state House of Representatives, and future efforts will likely again encounter resistance from social conservatives.

Bipartisan support for sports betting?

Still, there may be support for legalizing sports betting in Georgia regardless of who wins the gubernatorial election in November.

Abrams trails in public opinion polls behind current Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who hasn’t exactly been a great cheerleader for more play in his state. Even so, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kemp plans to push the legislature to pass a sports betting bill if he wins another term.

“Kemp spokesman Tate Mitchell said the governor plans to work with legislative leaders on a measure to allow sports betting in 2023 if he is reelected,” the newspaper reported Thursday. “The governor opposed legalizing sports betting in 2018 but avoided debate this year.”

A potential prize

The recent comments come as the Southeastern United States remains a headache for the sports betting industry. Louisiana and Tennessee have statewide online sports betting, but legal betting is in legal limbo in Florida and non-existent in Alabama and South Carolina. Mississippi and North Carolina offer sports betting in casinos, but that’s just as well.

Georgia would also be a considerable prize for sports betting operators. The state has the eighth-largest population in the United States, behind Ohio, where all the big names in the business are lining up to launch in early 2023. And, notably, FanDuel said in 2021 that it had chose Atlanta to host its new tech campus, with plans to add about 900 workers to the city over five years.

Still, it’s not entirely clear what kind of sports betting Abrams or Kemp wants. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Abrams aims to tax income at 20%, like in Tennessee, but she plans to leave other details to the legislature.

“We need to start with the intent to provide aid as needed and come back to a bipartisan conversation about what that will look like,” she reportedly said. “I don’t want to set strict rules because I know the legislative process well.”

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