An online sports betting bill failed to pass through the Georgia legislature before the lawmakers adjourned, effectively killing the bill. A similar gambling ballot referendum was also up for debate, but it too failed to pass.
Georgia has some of the most restrictive laws regarding gambling, but lawmakers were hoping to get things changed this year. Representative Ron Stephens was the sponsor of Senate Resolution 841, and he was hoping to leave the ultimate decision up to the voters in the state.
A two-thirds majority in both houses was needed for the referendum to appear on the ballots in November, but Stephens was unable to generate enough support. The Senate entered 2020 with firm opposition to an expanded gambling bill, and they never really gave the bill a chance.
There currently aren’t any commercial casinos in the state of Georgia, but this referendum would have allowed for them to be built. Stephens was unhappy with his fellow lawmakers for not giving the voters in the state a chance to voice their opinion.
Speedway Motorsports owns and operates the Atlanta Motor Speedway, and they were interested in turning the location into a huge casino and resort. Speedway Motorsports indicated that they would be willing to invest more than $1 billion if given the opportunity to offer gambling.
Stephens pleaded with fellow legislators to side with him, and he noted that legalizing gambling would bring 50,000 new permanent jobs to the state. The state would also be able to place a tax on gross gambling revenue, and that money could then be used to improve the state.
Most lawmakers believed that voters in Georgia would ultimately support the ballot referendum, but gambling has always been a touchy subject with Georgia legislators.
Lack of Support From Governor
Governor Brian Kemp has also expressed his opposition to any new gambling bills that are introduced. Kemp announced that he would veto any gambling bills that did not have the public’s support, but he was willing to let the voters decide.
Senate Bill 403 was introduced by Burt Jones, and this bill would have allowed certain businesses to offer sports betting. The Georgia Lottery would have been given the power to issue sports betting licenses, and they would regulate the new industry.
Senate Bill 403 needed a majority vote in both chambers to pass, but the bill never actually came up for an official vote. The bill was tied to the gambling referendum, and the bill ultimately failed at the same time.
Jones estimated that the state could have seen more than $60 million in new yearly tax revenue with the passing of this bill. The sports betting industry continues to grow throughout the US, but Georgia won’t be joining the club anytime soon.
Topic Likely Won’t Go Away
Even though the gambling laws failed this time around, expect lawmakers to continue to try to get new laws passed every year. Georgia is facing a huge budget deficit, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is making matters worse.
Last month, lawmakers approved a new budget that saw spending cut by more than 10 percent. Lawmakers warn that even more cuts could be coming next year if the pandemic continues to last many more months.
The state was bailed out by the federal stimulus package that was sent out a few months ago, but Georgia lawmakers do not believe they can rely on that again. Gambling is a great opportunity to bring in more revenue for the state, and this plan will continue to gain more support as the state loses money.