Georgia Sports Betting and Casino Gambling Referendum in the Cards

  • Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee approved the resolution
  • The chief sponsor said that 80,000 Georgians gamble out-of-state every year
  • Opponents believe casinos would lead to rising addiction, sex trafficking, and suicide
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A proposal in Georgia aims to legalize casinos and sports betting, with residents ultimately having to approve the measures if lawmakers back them. [Image:]

Comprehensive proposal

Both sports betting and casino gambling legalization are back on the table in Georgia, as the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee approved a resolution late last week. Senate Resolution 538 (SR 538) calls for a constitutional amendment to permit both activities in the state.

next step is for the Senate Rules Committee to organize a floor vote

Both the full Senate and House will need to pass the proposal with a two-thirds majority before voters can have their say. The next step is for the Rules Committee to organize a floor vote.

Senator Carden Summers, the main sponsor of the proposal, told the committee members that allowing up to five casinos would significantly boost the state’s economy. The 66-year-old noted that similar measures have constantly come up short over the years. He urged his fellow lawmakers to “put this issue to bed” and emphasized that he trusts the people of Georgia to back the plan.

The benefits

Senator Summers highlighted that many residents already engage in casino gambling, estimating that 80,000 people visit nearby states annually to do so. This means that Georgia is missing out on tax revenue and employment opportunities that this legislation provides.

SR 538 seeks to put the changes into law by no later than July 2, 2025.

Summers also referenced the great benefits that have come from the introduction of a state lottery. Legalized in 1992, the lottery directs funds toward pre-kindergarten programs and HOPE Scholarships.

SR 538 proposes allocating half of the tax revenue from gambling expansion to improving transportation in the Peach State. Another 30% would be divided equally between rural health care, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and gambling addiction treatment. The final 20% would go toward childcare and pre-kindergarten programs.

Plenty of differing views

Many business leaders and politicians support SR 538, pointing to the obvious economic benefits. Georgia Baptist Mission Board Public Affairs Representative Mike Griffin wasn’t so supportive, stating that allowing casinos would lead to rises in gambling addiction, suicide, and sex trafficking. He believes that the monetary benefits shouldn’t outweigh moral standards.

not the only gambling expansion bill currently under consideration in Georgia

This is not the only gambling expansion bill currently under consideration in Georgia. Senate Bill 386 (SB 386) would allow online sports betting in the state; the Senate passed this bill at the start of February. It will also need to go through a statewide referendum as it would amend the state’s constitution.

The next step is for the bill to have a hearing in the House. Another vote would also have to take place in the Senate following the addition of an amendment that aims to allow lawmakers to direct funds from sports betting to a variety of causes.

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