Casino Ballot Referendum Could be Coming to Georgia
Georgia has extremely restrictive laws when it comes to the gaming industry, but that could soon change. Lawmakers are hoping to get a bill passed that would put a question of casino gambling on the ballots in November.
Even though 2020 is a Presidential election year, many residents in Georgia will be faced with an even tougher decision. Gambling has been a hot topic of debate in Georgia over the last few years, and the final decision could land in the hands of the state’s residents.
There are just five states in the US that don’t have any forms of legalized gambling besides the state lottery, and Georgia is one of them. This means that there are no tribal or commercial casinos, no pari-mutuel betting, and sports betting is also not allowed.
Senate Resolution 841 is looking to change these laws, although lawmakers will not be able to get anything passed without approval from voters in the state. Earlier this week, Senate Resolution 841 passed through committee by a vote of 13-3.
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An amendment is needed to the state constitution before the gambling prohibition can be lifted. Lawmakers are confident that a majority of residents in the state want to see that change. Each legislative chamber will first have to approve the resolution by a two-thirds majority vote.
If the referendum does appear on the ballot, residents will be voting on whether or not to allow casino gambling, pari-mutuel wagering, and sports betting.
Georgia Needs New Forms of Revenue
One of the biggest reasons that Senate Resolution 841 is gaining so much support is that Georgia needs new revenue sources. The state is facing a budget deficit, and the recent coronavirus pandemic did not help in that area.
The Atlanta Motor Speedway announced last October that they would be willing to invest more than $1 billion to turn the race track into a casino. If casino gambling was legalized throughout the state, lawmakers predict that several other major investors would look to do the same thing.
State Representative Ron Stephens introduced SR841 earlier this year, and he is urging lawmakers to pass the bill. Stephens is hoping that all lawmakers will support his bill to let the citizens of the state decide.
House Bill 903 is also making progress, and it is set to go before the full Senate next week. HB903 would make mobile sports betting legal throughout Georgia, and the industry could launch if the referendum passes in November.
If mobile sports betting were to launch, the Georgia Lottery would be the governing body. Lawmakers have estimated that a mobile sports betting industry could generate at least $60 million in tax revenue each year.
Plenty of Opposition Exists
Even though both bills have been making progress of late, there is still a long way for each of them to go. The state of Georgia has long been opposed to gambling, and the state is made up of very powerful religious groups and organizations.
Lawmakers have been careful not to support gambling bills in the past to keep their constituents happy. Even if the state needs money, lawmakers are careful not to push too hard on the issue.
Another major hurdle is that the Georgia Legislature is in its final week before the recess for the summer. Time is simply running out, and it’s unclear if either bill will ever be put to an official vote.
Expanded gambling laws in Georgia could be coming in the near future, but it appears unlikely that anything will happen in 2021.