Georgia Legislators Pushing Broader Gaming Expansion Ballot Question

January 10, 2022
Back
Although much of the conversation coming into 2022 has been focused on sports-betting voter referendums in Florida and California, legislators in Georgia are planning to make another push at approving a ballot question that could legalize sports betting in the Peach State.

Body

Although much of the conversation coming into 2022 has been focused on sports-betting voter referendums in Florida and California, legislators in Georgia are planning to make another push at approving a ballot question that could legalize sports betting in the Peach State.

During a press conference last week in advance of the beginning of Georgia’s legislative session, Republican Speaker of the House David Ralston said that gaming expansion is on the list of topics under consideration this year.

“There is an appetite this session that I haven’t seen before to do something,” Ralston said.

Last year, the Senate approved Senate Bill 142 that would have put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November 2022 to permit the Georgia Lottery to issue at least six licenses for mobile sports betting.

The bill failed to receive a vote on the House floor, as the two chambers differed on the potential tax rate and license fees, among other issues.

As a result of those differences, Ralston and other House leaders on gaming are proposing a broader ballot question that could potentially open the door to other gaming options beyond sports betting, such as land-based casinos or legalized horseracing.

“What I’ve suggested to the proponents is we tripped coming out of the gate over the details of this thing for years, so maybe it’s time we asked the question to Georgians whether they want to expand gaming, and if they say yes, then we sit down and decide what form it will take, whether it be sports betting, horses, destination resorts, that kind of thing,” Ralston said.

“The details have been a real hang-up on this for a number of years now,” he added.

In prior years, legislators pursued avenues to legalize sports betting without a constitutional amendment, but a 2019 opinion from the state’s Office of Legislative Counsel advised that an amendment would be the safest route to avoid a legal challenge.

“Owing to the wording of the Georgia Constitution, reasonable arguments could be made on both sides of the question, and the ultimate success of an attempt to legalize sports betting without a constitutional amendment could come down to a roll of a dice,” wrote deputy legislative counsel D. Stuart Morelli.

Georgia’s current gaming portfolio only includes the state lottery, as well as limited forms of charitable gaming, including bingo and raffles. It remains the most populous U.S. state to not have any form of commercial or tribal casino gaming.

“We’re a big state, somebody’s always going to be the last to get in, but that don’t prevent them from getting in,” Ralston said. “Had we done it ten years ago, would we have more money, sure, but it is what it is.”

Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp has typically opposed any form of gambling expansion but told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution “it doesn’t matter what I think if they pass a constitutional amendment.”

Beyond the details, one of the biggest reasons gaming expansion fell through in Georgia last year was the highly combative political environment in the state coming off the 2020 election where Georgia became a flashpoint.

In response, Georgia’s legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, approved a controversial new election law that drew strong pushback from Democrats, who pulled their support from any bipartisan legislation.

Any constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds vote in the state legislature, and without support from Democrats, any sort of gaming expansion bill would likely fail.

Heading into what will be a hotly contested mid-term election that includes a re-election campaign for Kemp against nationally popular Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, gaming legislation could potentially get caught in a larger political fight once again in 2022.

Our premium content is available to users of our services.

To view articles, please Log-in to your account, or sign up today for full access:

Opt in to hear about webinars, events, industry and product news

To find out more about Vixio, contact us today
No items found.