Four Atlanta Pro Sports Teams Call for Legal Sports Betting in Georgia

  • Four major teams joined forces to form the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance
  • The group wants to combat the betting black market that exists in the state
  • It would also welcome increasing levels of fan engagement coming from legal sports betting
  • The alliance believes the state could benefit by about $50m annually from betting revenues
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Four major professional sports teams in Atlanta are calling for the legalization of sports betting in the state of Georgia. [Image:]

Major sports teams come together

Four of the major professional sports teams in Atlanta, Georgia are calling for state lawmakers to legalize sports betting. 

The presidents of the Atlanta Hawks (NBA), Atlanta Falcons (NFL), Atlanta Braves (MLB), and Atlanta United (MLS) have joined forces to create the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance. The group has sent a letter to lawmakers in Georgia, claiming that the state is currently is 12th biggest market for illegal sports betting in the United States. They said of the betting black market:

It is not going away. That is why we must ensure the industry is above-board and transparent.”

According to the CEO and president of the Atlanta Braves, Derek Schiller, this is the first time in history that the franchises have come together on a policy issue. The reason for doing so was because: “We felt it was important that we formed this alliance so that we could advise the Legislature if they’re going to consider drafting legislation.”

Calls for proper regulation

The alliance wants sports betting to be properly regulated. It is also looking to ensure that the integrity of sports in the region is maintained. 

Georgia is a conservative state when it comes to gambling. There have been numerous attempts over the years to expand gambling legislation, to no avail. To do so would require a constitutional amendment.

To achieve such an amendment, an issue would need the support of two-thirds of the Georgia legislature, as well as a majority vote from residents. However, the pro sports team alliance believes that sports betting could be approved through a simpler legislative process. 

Numerous potential benefits

Billy Linville, a lobbyist working on behalf of the alliance, says the teams are not looking to receive revenue from legal sports betting. However, he expects a natural increase in the level of fan engagement, whether this entails going to games or tuning in on television. Bettors will be interested to watch and see if their bets work out, which will drive up interest and viewership numbers. 

the state could see annual gross revenue of about $50m from legal sports betting

Linville notes that many Georgians already bet on sports illegally. He maintains that the integrity of games and consumer protection will be safeguarded through legalization. 

The pro sports alliance believes the state could see annual gross revenue of about $50m from legal sports betting. 

Opposition to the new initiative

Virginia Galloway, a lobbyist for the Georgia Faith and Freedom Coalition, was among those who expressed disappointment at this new stance from the pro sports teams in Atlanta. 

She said: “It’s sad that these great American pastimes want to bring in the predatory gambling business to take advantage of their fans.” Galloway added it will be hardworking Georgians who will “be on the hook for the havoc it wreaks, both socially and economically.”

Traditionally, religious organizations and conservative groups have been against any forms of gambling expansion. They believe the pastime is immoral and a habit that leads to crime.

The chances of sports betting legalization in Georgia

Pro-sports betting advocates in Georgia are being encouraged by comments from Governor Brian Kemp, who spoke about cutting government spending. These advocates believe legal sports betting could be a great way for the state to drive additional revenues. 

House Speaker David Ralston, who is heading up a panel to look into the potential effects of legal sports betting, has acknowledged that there is a lot of interest in Georgia in this regard. 

Ralston used the example of Tennessee. Describing it as a state that is usually behind others when it comes to embracing new industries, he pointed out that it passed a sports betting bill in spring 2019. 

As well as the tax revenues, there would also be the creation of numerous new jobs in the state from legal sports betting. 

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