Expanded Gambling Could Come to Georgia in 2021
There are fresh hopes that sports gambling may soon be legalized in Georgia after lawmakers brought the subject up for debate last week and paved the way for further discussions starting early next year. A number of bills are in the works, covering everything from sports betting to casinos, and they will all be given further consideration once the state’s General Assembly is back in session from 11 January 2021.
Georgia Representative Ron Stephens believes that next year will see the introduction of some form of legal sports betting. He is the chair of the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee, and he has been quoted in the press as saying, “If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen in this next session. The people want it; opinion polls and more importantly, public hearings show that. It’s time the legislature give Georgians that opportunity.”
Stephens has long been a proponent for legalized gambling in the state, but to date, his efforts have failed. In the past, other lawmakers from the House and the Senate have managed to prevent bills from progressing, despite the obvious economic benefits that would come with gambling. Furthermore, it is not just lawmakers that can hinder the progress of any future bills. If lawmakers approved sports betting and Governor Brian Kemp accepts it, then it must still be put to a public vote, and there may be great resistance in the Bible Belt state.
However, there is growing optimism in the state’s Capitol, despite the obvious obstacles. Representative Calvin Smyre is another supporter of legalized gambling. He said that legislation “requires heavy lifting, and heavy lifting always requires bipartisanship. I think we have that muscle right now.”
It is thought that of all the types of gambling under consideration, sports gambling would receive the most public support. The same has been true across much of the rest of the country, with it widely accepted that people are already betting on sports, even if they have to use offshore operators in order to do so.
Legal sports betting would enable the state to benefit from tax revenues, which is an argument being made in nearly every state across the US. However, while there is definitely a cause for hope, a great deal of work lies ahead.