Georgia plans legalizing sports betting and horse racing

Currently, Georgia’s state lottery and its multiple games are the only forms of legal gambling allowed in the state.

The Senate Gaming and Pari-mutuel Wagering on Horse Racing and Growing Georgia’s Equine Industry Study Committee met to examine the possibility of changing state law. The idea is to analyze pros and cons of sports betting regulation in Georgia. Proponents of legalized gambling in Georgia say local casinos will keep tax revenue in the state that would have otherwise be spent in another state where gambling is legal, such as Nevada. They also say that horse racing will contribute to the state’s multiple billion-dollar agribusiness sector, in particular, the equine industry.

Up to now, about 21 jurisdictions of the United States have taken legislative action since the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2018 lifted a federal ban on sports betting outside of Nevada. The 11-member gaming committee was created in Georgia in the 2019 legislative session to explore recommendations for the next session, which starts in January 2020. The committee will have until December 1st to report its findings.

Georgia’s state lottery and its multiple games are the only forms of legal gambling allowed in the state. Net proceeds from the Georgia lottery are used to support educational programs and scholarships for local students. Georgia law currently bans casino gambling, horse racing and for-profit bingo and raffles. The law, however, does not specifically rule out sports betting.

Deputy Legislative Counsel D. Stuart Morelli advised the committee that a constitutional amendment will be needed to legalize sports betting. “Because there are even odds on whether or not the Georgia Constitution currently prohibits sports betting, the only surefire way to avoid years of protracted litigation over the matter would be a constitutional amendment that explicitly authorizes the legalization of sports betting in one or more forms,” he wrote in a memo to committee members.