The lights have once again gone out for sports betting in Georgia, as legislation failed in both chambers of the state legislature on Monday, ahead of a key deadline for bills to move forward.
House Bill 380, which would have legalized sports betting without a constitutional amendment, failed to receive a vote Monday ahead of Georgia’s crossover deadline, where bills must clear at least one chamber of the state’s general assembly in order to continue to exist.
The plan would have seen sports betting governed by the Georgia Lottery Corporation and allowed the lottery to issue up to 16 mobile sports betting licenses, seven of which would be untethered licenses awarded through a procurement process and the remaining nine of which would be issued to professional sports teams, major golf courses, motor speedways and the Georgia Lottery itself.
The nine named entities would have paid a $1.5m annual license fee, while the untethered licenses would pay a $750,000 annual fee.
Sports betting would have been taxed at 25 percent of adjusted gross income with no deductions provided for promotional play, which would have made Georgia one of the highest taxed competitive markets in the United States, trailing only New York and Pennsylvania among states with multiple private operators.
In addition, the Senate voted against Senate Resolution 140, a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting.
The state’s efforts to pass sports betting have consistently been clouded with the question of whether doing so would require a constitutional amendment.
A 2019 opinion from the legislative counsel’s office recommended an amendment, claiming that while there were credible legal arguments to justify either position, doing so with an amendment would be the safest route to avoid potential litigation.
However, in addition to requiring a two-thirds majority in each chamber, the amendment would also require a voter referendum no earlier than November 2024, delaying the start of sports betting in the state until 2025 at best.
Traditional legislation, such as the version the House failed to pass Monday, only requires a majority vote in each chamber and the signature of Governor Brian Kemp to become law. Kemp has taken a more neutral stance on sports betting in recent years.
The Senate vote on the constitutional amendment received a majority vote, but fell short of the required two-thirds majority needed for passage.
The failure in the Senate Monday marked the second time in a week that the chamber has killed a sports betting bill, following the body voting down Senate Bill 57 on Thursday (March 2).
In addition to moral concerns over gambling expansion and the constitutional amendment debate, one of the key wedge issues that ultimately sank similar traditional legislation in the Senate was the inclusion of wagering on horse racing, which has been a divisive issue in Georgia for several decades.