Georgia Has Sports Betting On Its Mind: Lawmaker Sees Potential For Legalized Gaming In 2022

Written By JR Duren on October 29, 2021

It looks like Florida may be a trend-setter.

As the state eases into sports betting — no apps have launched yet but are likely on their way — there’s talk among Georgia lawmakers that the state may be closer to legalizing sports betting than it ever has.

In an interview with Atlanta-based news service Capitol Beat, Rep. Ron Stephens said that sports betting’s chances look “more encouraging than ever.”

Stephens went on to say the path of least resistance is to ask the people of Georgia:

“Let the people decide: Do we want to gamble or do we not. That’s the cleanest way to do it.”

Yes, legal sports betting in Georgia could be sooner than later

Whenever a state considers legalizing sports betting, there are several factors at play:

  • Voters’ opinions about the matter.
  • Sports betting operators getting involved.
  • Professional sports teams getting involved.
  • The political party that has the majority in the state’s legislature.

Georgia has some positive momentum in some of the areas listed above. As such, it’s not too far-fetched to imagine sports betting in the Peach State in the next year.

Voters opinions about the matter

This past year, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), in conjunction with the University of Georgia (UGA), surveyed of 1,025 registered voters. In the survey, the AJC and UGA asked voters if they supported sports betting and casino gambling:

  • 57% said they support legalized sports betting on professional sporting events
  • 64% said they support casino gambling

Though the sample size is small (Georgia had 7.2 million registered voters in 2020), the results indicate the state’s registered voters are ready for sports betting.

DFS operators already live in Georgia

So far, no gambling operators are pushing for the legalization of sports betting in Georgia. However, several DFS operators run apps in the state. Among the operators are DraftKings, FanDuel and Monkey Knife Fight. Both DraftKings and FanDuel operate sportsbooks in other states.

Major league teams want legalization

Georgia’s pro sports teams have been active in the push toward legal sports betting. In 2019, four professional sports teams for the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance. Those teams are:

  • MLB: Atlanta Braves
  • NFL: Atlanta Falcons
  • NBA: Atlanta Hawks
  • MLS: Atlanta United

The alliance points out that $1.5 billion in illegal bets take place in Georgia every year.

“The question isn’t if Georgians are going to wager on sports, it’s whether they will wager in an illegal market or in a fully regulated environment that protects both consumers and the integrity of games,” the alliance’s website notes.

Political party has majority in the state’s legislature

Up until the 2020 presidential election, one could’ve argued that Georgia was a Republican state through and through. That assertion isn’t quite the fortress it once was after President Joe Biden won Georgia. However, Republicans still control the House of Representatives, Senate and governorship.

Republicans tend to view sports betting as a negative entity. As such, sports betting is a tougher sell in Republican-controlled states like Georgia. However, earlier this year, the Senate voted to approve a bill that would legalize sports betting. The bill went through the House of Representatives but failed to make it through by the end of the legislative session in April.

A sports betting bill would make it through one chamber in a Republican-dominated legislature is an encouraging sign.

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JR Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey gambling beats for Catena Media. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun. Duren is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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