Georgia Legislator Seeks Legalization of Sports Betting and Casinos

Posted on: December 7, 2023, 03:20h.

Last updated on: December 7, 2023, 03:20h.

Georgia Sports Betting and Casino Push Planned for 2024

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A sign welcoming travelers to Georgia. Sports betting is likely to be back on the legislature’s agenda next year. (Image: Shutterstock)

Voters in Georgia may have an opportunity to decide next year whether to welcome casinos, racetracks, and mobile sports betting to the state, if supportive lawmakers have their way.

“If we were able to do three destination resorts and one racetrack and sports betting, you’re talking about $900 million in revenue to the state,” Beach said at a Wednesday meeting of the Georgia legislature’s Joint Economic Development and Tourism Committee, of which he is the co-chairman.

Georgian State Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) says he plans to introduce a bill as soon as the legislature convenes in January that would place a gambling measure on the state ballot next year. Beach wants to bring three casino resorts, a pari-mutuel racetrack, and mobile sportsbooks to the Peach State.

Opportunity to Decide

Beach’s proposed legislation would ask voters whether they want to amend the Georgia constitution to authorize the new games. He noted that sports betting and casinos are legal in many neighboring states, costing Georgia tourism and economic development opportunities.

During a recent visit to the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in North Carolina, Beach said he noticed that 85% of the cars in the parking lot had Georgia license plates.

“We are funding North Carolina’s education system with Georgia license plates up there gaming,” he said. “So I think it’s something we have to let voters decide.”

Funding for Infrastructure, Education

The legislation Beach discussed Wednesday was circulated to committee members in draft form but he said it may be tweaked prior to being introduced.

The legislation would direct proceeds from casinos, racing, and sports betting to several priorities, including infrastructure development, healthcare, and education. Beach said at the meeting that half of the proceeds would flow into a Freight and Logistics Fund, aimed at improving roads, bridges and rail access in key priority areas such as around the Port of Savannah.

The other half would be split between healthcare and education, with 20% going to a rural healthcare fund, 20% going to address gambling addiction and mental health, and 10% going to a fund dedicated to the state’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Negotiations and Legislation

Beach said he may also include language in the legislation that would use some of the gambling proceeds to establish a fund designed to attract marquee events such as the Super Bowl or Final Four to Georgia. He said Texas has a $100 million state fund to attract such events, whereas organizers have had to privately fundraise in previous efforts to bring big events to Georgia.

If voters approve the proposed constitutional amendment, the legislature would be directed to pass implementing legislation to establish a new gaming commission that would regulate the activity.

Georgia is seen as one of the best hopes for an expansion of sports betting in 2024, after similar efforts stalled in previous sessions. Still, it remains to be seen whether casinos and pari-mutuels will also come along for the ride. Sports betting may be more likely to see success in the state and it may not require a new constitutional amendment.

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