A sports betting advocate in the Georgia Senate appears to be on his way to becoming the state’s next lieutenant governor even after being linked to efforts to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election.
State Senator Burt Jones is one of 16 Georgia Republicans who falsely claimed to be the state’s “duly elected and qualified” electors in an unsuccessful attempt to win the state for President Trump, according to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis of Atlanta.
But Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney of Atlanta ruled on July 25 that Willis has a conflict of interest because she hosted a fundraiser for Jones’ opponent in the lieutenant governor’s race, Democrat Charles Bailey.
McBurney’s ruling means Jones cannot be questioned or charged, but the district attorney’s office can still interrogate the other so-called electors.
The district attorney’s office has notified former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was Trump’s attorney during the election, that he is a target of the criminal investigation in Georgia.
A poll released last month by the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) showed Jones with a 41 percent to 36 percent lead over his Democratic opponent, Charles Bailey, who also supports sports betting.
Among other duties, the lieutenant governor of Georgia serves as the president of the state's Senate.
“I’m still in that same posture of supporting the online sports betting piece of [gambling expansion],” Jones told the AJC.
“Obviously, as the lieutenant governor, you don’t carry bills, but if somebody did carry it and it was put together appropriately, I would definitely allow it to get on the floor for a vote. And I think it would pass.”
As a state senator in 2020, Jones introduced a bill to authorize the Georgia Lottery Corporation to license online sports betting.
The bill failed after missing a Senate committee’s deadline for passage, although a later bill not sponsored by Jones was approved by the Senate before failing in the House.
Meanwhile, Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia, is calling for the legalization of both sports betting and casinos.
“We are at a generational moment,” Abrams said on Thursday (August 11).
“Right now, Georgia is the only state in the South without need-based financial aid. My plan will change that while providing a permanent stream of revenue that can be used to provide critical financial aid and make technical college free, all without raising taxes and while we grow the economy.”
Sports-betting revenue in Georgia would be taxed at 20 percent under Abrams’ plan, mirroring the rate in Tennessee.
Abrams is running against Republican Governor Brian Kemp, who defeated her in 2018 and is leading her 49.3 percent to 43.7 percent in a poll released this week by FiveThirtyEight.
Nevertheless, the next lieutenant governor of Georgia is virtually certain to be supportive of at least sports betting, and if Abrams becomes governor, the state might be open to casinos.
The day after Abrams announced her support for gambling, Kemp noted it will take a two-thirds vote in the Georgia House of Representatives and the Senate to pass a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting and casinos.
Kurt Freedlund, president of LottoInteractive and former chief operating officer of the Georgia Lottery, said a constitutional amendment to legalize gambling is a longshot.
“Polling shows sports betting is more likely to pass than casino gambling, but I don’t see anything happening in the near future,” Freedlund said.