Sports Betting Won't Be Legal In Georgia After Lawmakers Couldn't Agree On How To Spend Taxes

NCAA basketball tournament brackets are displayed on video screens at the Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City N.J. on Wednesday, March 21, 2024. The American Gaming Association estimates Americans will wager $2.72 billion with legal outlets this year. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
NCAA basketball tournament brackets are displayed on video screens at the Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City N.J. on Wednesday, March 21, 2024. The American Gaming Association estimates Americans will wager $2.72 billion with legal outlets this year. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
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ATLANTA (AP) — An effort to authorize sports betting in Georgia has failed for another year, after lawmakers couldn't agree on how to spend money collected on taxes.

Neither a proposed state constitutional amendment or authorizing legislation ever came to a vote in the House, after a committee passed it out early on Thursday, the last day of the 2024 legislative session.

A top Democrat said his party wanted to see changes in how state taxes on sports betting would be spent. Without Democratic votes, a constitutional amendment couldn't achieve the two-thirds majorities needs to pass the House and Senate. And Republicans were far from unified. Some GOP lawmakers oppose sports betting, saying they don't want the state to sanction destructive and addictive behavior.

House Minority Whip Sam Park, a Lawrenceville Democrat, voted to advance Senate Resolution 579 and Senate Bill 386, but said he and other Democrats don't support the bills passing as they're currently written. That's because the House committee changed the measure to allow taxes to be deposited for the use of HOPE college scholarships and pre-K classes.

The Senate measure prioritized using the money for pre-K, and some Democrats also wanted money to be used for other purposes, such as college financial aid that doesn't require students to achieve and keep certain grades.

“It deviates from the bipartisan compromise in the state Senate that prioritized funding for voluntary pre-K,” Park said."

Supporters said Georgians should get a chance to vote, arguing many are already betting on sports illegally.

“This allows us to get those people off an illegal market into a legal market, allows us to regulate it and tax it, and take care and protect Georgia citizens," said Rep. Marcus Wiedower, a Watkinsville Republican sponsoring the measure in the House.

Opponents, though, warned that legalizing sports betting will provide a pathway to addiction, especially for younger gamblers.

“When it is sanctioned by the state, to me it provides a different level," said Rep. Clay Pirkle, an Ashburn Republican. “If the state says it’s OK, it becomes OK for a lot of people not doing this now.”

Sen. Bill Cowsert, the Athens Republican who has been leading efforts in that chamber, said he believed the constitutional amendment, which would provide up to $22.5 million to treat gambling addiction, would provide “the most robust problem gaming provisions of any sports betting legislation in this country.”

Nationwide, 38 states allow sports betting. Some states allow only in-person bets, although most allow electronic betting from anywhere. Georgia's earlier bill would take 20% of proceeds in taxes, after winnings are paid to gamblers. Nationwide, tax rates are set at anywhere from 6.75% in Iowa to 51% in Rhode Island and New York.