However, the business group and Atlanta’s professional sports teams support legislation allowing sports wagering.
Voting against the act:
Legislators voted 37-19 against Senate Bill 57, which would have commanded the state lottery to include sports wagering on horse racing, which would have lasted as long as track winnings were paid out by the track itself or other company instead of a wagering pool.
That traditional set-up, which also permits the odds to change right up to race time is defined as pari-mutual wagering.
However, legislators will refocus their attention on the legislation prior to Monday.
But, this is not the only sports wagering legislation in Georgia, as another bill that would permit sports wagering, but not horse racing, is on the Georgia ballot, and a proposal to permit voters to determine the issue through a referendum is still the option of voting at the Senate.
However, the Georgia Constitution strictly prohibits pari-mutual wagering and casinos.
Evading a constitutional amendment is an advantage as it requires a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of the General Assembly and then the support of majority of voters across the state. Still, Republicans don’t have a two-thirds majority in either legislative chamber and some are reluctant to officially support gambling because of their moral beliefs.
However, a standard bill such as the one the Senate rejected Thursday only needs a simple majority of both chambers and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature.
It’s important to note that Kemp has shown a willingness to officially legalize sports wagering.
Failed attempts to spread gambling:
Numerous legislators have tried to spread gambling each year, but nothing has come to fruition since voters validated the state lottery in 1992.
But everyone predicts that Georgia will eventually have to legalize some types of sports wagering because it is already officially legalized in 34 states, even though only a few permit in-person gambling.
In that regard, the proponents said: “Georgia could reap new revenue from gambling that’s already taking place illegally.”
Sen. Brandon Beach, Republican of Alpharetta, added: “Right now we have unregulated sports betting that’s done underground with bookies, and I would argue that’s more harmful to people.”
Opposition to the expansion of gambling:
However, opponents assert that “Georgia shouldn’t expand gambling beyond the state lottery, which reaps about $1.5 billion in annual revenue for prekindergarten programs and college scholarships.”
In this regard, Sen. Marty Harbin, Republican of Tyrone, said: “The issue of gambling is that there’s always a loser. There can never be a winner without loser if the game is fair, and the other part is the house always wins.”
Senate Bill 57 would require its profit to be depleted on college scholarships and preschool, constitutionally mandated programs that the lottery already pays for.
The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Billy Hickman, a Statesboro Republican who owns and races horses. He claimed that “horse racing would have a greater economic impact than other sports gambling because it would support farmers and horse breeders.”
Harold Melton, a former state Supreme Court Justice, wrote an opinion earlier this year for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, arguing that sports wagering could be approved without amending the state Constitution.