US Sports Betting Legislation Updates: Georgia and Ohio

  • A Georgia sports betting bill did not get a House vote before the end of legislative session
  • A divide arose between Republicans and Democrats over controversial elections legislation
  • Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming has been getting opinions from stakeholders
  • The committee plans to have a sports betting bill ready in a few weeks
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Sports betting legalization looks to be dead in Georgia this year, while a Senate committee in Ohio is crafting a legalization bill. [Image:]

Differing prospects for sports betting legalization

Sports betting legalization looks like it will have to wait another year in Georgia while a new bill is in the works in Ohio.

Lawmakers in Georgia adjourned the 2021 legislative session in the early hours of Thursday morning without voting on a sports betting-related proposal. The Senate had already given the ballot measure bill and an accompanying regulatory measure the green light a few weeks ago. It appears that those lawmakers who are pushing for sports betting in the state will now have to wait until the 2022 legislative session.

an Ohio sports betting legalization bill appears to be on the way

After a few months of hearings, an Ohio sports betting legalization bill appears to be on the way once lawmakers return from a two-week Easter break. This bill has not yet been written and many questions still remain about its components.

Lottery operators, casinos, and professional sports teams in Ohio all want in on the action. Ohio is different from a lot of other state legislatures as it does not have a short opening window for its sessions. The current session will continue until December 31.

Political divide hurts bill in Georgia

Sports betting legalization was making good progress in the Georgia legislature, appearing to get more support than in previous attempts. During the course of the legislative session, lawmakers considered a number of different proposals.

The companion bills that made progress, introduced by Senator Jeff Mullis, called for the question of legalizing sports betting to go to a public vote in 2022. The Georgia Lottery would oversee the sports betting sector and most of the resulting tax revenue would go toward the state’s HOPE Scholarship program. Professional sports teams in Georgia were in favor of the idea.

Once the issue reached the House, it went back and forth between various committees and the floor. Anti-gambling and some of the more conservative Republicans initially stalled the matter. Issues then arose over unrelated controversial elections legislation that has made news across the country, leading to the Republicans and Democrats being at loggerheads as Democrats withheld their support for the sports betting bill in protest of the bill that Governor Brian Kemp recently signed into law. Therefore, hopes were no longer high that the bill would get the necessary two-thirds support, with the vote ultimately not taking place before the end of the session.  

Optimism in Ohio

While sports betting legalization has been a hot topic in Ohio for a number of years, previous attempts have not made much progress. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine did note a few weeks ago that he is confident that sports betting legalization will happen in the near future. During a March 1 press conference, he said: “This is something that I think is inevitable and it’s coming to Ohio.”

committee has been listening to the views of stakeholders in recent weeks

The Senate Select Committee on Gaming began work in January with the goal of developing sports betting legislation. This committee has been listening to the views of stakeholders in recent weeks, with the process ending on Wednesday. People who expressed their views during the nine hearings included state lottery officials, local business people, and sports teams.

Senator Kirk Schuring, chair of the committee, plans to get input and suggestions from each committee member on the best approach to take when developing a bill. Schuring expects the bill to be ready for introduction in the coming weeks. To become law, a bill would need approval in both the Senate and House before making its way to the governor’s desk. Senate President Matt Huffman plans to include sports betting legislation in a state budget bill that needs passage by June 30.

The NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers clearly believes that sports betting in the Buckeye State is on the way, as the team signed a partnership with Betway last week.

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