Georgia Eyes 2021 for Legalized Gambling

In the United States, most every individual state offers some form of gambling, be it lottery, sports betting, casino, poker, etc. However, there are still some states that do not have anything on offer, like Georgia. For quite some time, lawmakers have been trying to legalize gambling so that Georgia will have a new source of revenue and be able to recapture money going to other states that offer casinos and other gambling services.

Unfortunately for the state, efforts have feel short this year. According to one lawmaker, it looks like 2021 will be the year that the option will be legalized. Or will it?

Looking Ahead to Next Year

Only six states in the US do not have a commercial casino or tribal gaming venue. Georgia is one of those states. Representative Ron Stephens is one lawmaker who has tried to see gambling approved but to no avail. For years, Stephens has provided insight on how a legalized commercial gaming industry could bring new revenues to the state.

This year, it looked like legislation might move forward due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The outbreak of the virus hit the economy of the state hard and caused a major shortage in tax revenues. With this loss, Stephens feels that 2021 will be a great time to find support for the industry.

Plans that were thrown around included adding a commercial casino in the Atlanta area, which of course is the capital city. It is believed that Georgians want to see gambling offered, so they would approve it.

Stephens spoke with the Savannah Morning News, stating that if it is going to happen, it will be next session. He knows the people want it, as opinion polls and public hearings show that they do. He feels it is time to allow residents to vote on the matter.

A Referendum is Needed

According to Stephens, the people of Georgia would vote in approval for gambling. The constitution currently bans gambling. To change it, a ballot referendum is needed. The process to put a referendum on the ballot can start in the Senate or the House.

An amendment must earn two-thirds of support from each chamber to move forward. It must then be signed by the governor before the voters get a chance to have their say. In Georgia, any referendums to the constitution can only happen in even years. So, if the process can move forward, it would not be considered until November 2022.

For the option to gain any headway, lawmakers will have to make a few decisions. It is unclear as to what type of gambling would be legalized in the state as well as if racetracks would be able to offer games. Lawmakers must also consider how money will be spent plus if they will decide to include online gambling as well.

For Stephens, he feels that sports betting should come first and there is a loophole that might make it happen in a quick way. The Georgia Lottery has the ability to add new games without a referendum. If sports betting was operated via the lottery, then it could launch without the need for a constitutional change. Whether or not Stephens will be able to get others to see it this way as well, still remains to be seen.

Rebecca Kont
Rebecca Kont

Rebecca lives in Las Vegas and after completing her degree at Reynolds Journalism school joined the USGS team to pursue her journalism dreams.