Georgia Ready for Gambling Legalization in 2021

Modified by Dani Wilson on May 10, 2021 in Us Casino News

Georgia Ready to Move Forward with Gambling Legalization in 2021

It was towards the end of 2020 that Georgia lawmaker Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) spoke of a positive outlook for gambling in The Peach State in 2021. While other US states have been progressing forward with both land-based and online gambling opportunities, Georgia has remained quite far behind. It now exists as one of six US states that does not currently have a tribal or commercial casino, nor does it offer pari-mutuel sports betting.

Stephens has actually been at the forefront of the push for legal commercial gambling, frequently pointing out the benefits that it could bring to Georgia. Even more so now with COVID-19 having done quite the number on the state’s economy, he firmly believes that this year will be the one for gambling to be given the nod.

“If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen in this next session”, Stephens said in December 2020. “The people want it. Opinion polls, and more importantly, public hearings, show that…”, he continued, before commenting on the legislature needing to provide Georgia’s residents with the opportunity.

The Georgia House Economic Development and Tourism Committee is chaired by Stephens, and this organisation handles any sort of proposed measure in the gaming industry. The General Assembly in The Peach State started its 2021 session on January 11.

Gaming expansion in Georgia requires a constitutional amendment, but Stephens is hopeful on a loophole being exploited to bring legal sports betting to the state. New games are able to be added to the Georgia Lottery without a ballot referendum being necessary. Therefore, he believes that sports betting could actually be allocated to be put under the operation of the Georgia Lottery. That is similar to what West Virginia currently provides to its residents.

It Could Actually Come Down to the People

While Stephens is optimistic about the loophole, not everyone shares his opinion on it. Senator Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) stated that sports betting by itself would also require a constitutional amendment to take place. He believes that the people would need to agree to expanded forms of gambling of any type.

That being said, Stephens claims that opinion polls and public hearings have seen Georgians show outright support for ending the gaming prohibition within state borders. If this occurred, a new casino could then be launched in the state and put to the test.

Of course, there is that all-important measure needed to ament the legal framework in Georgia, and this requires the ballot referendum to take place. The process is able to start in either the House or the Senate, but a proposed amendment needs two-thirds of support behind it in each chamber. The governor’s signature must also be inked on it before it is put to Georgia voters.

What is more, amendment referendums can only be held during even years, meaning that it would be November of 2022 before residents could vote on it.

Fortunately, Stephens is not alone in his push for Georgia to introduce legal casinos and potentially other forms of gambling. Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus) has also voiced his opinion on the matter, and he is completely behind Stephens in this respect. He says that gaming “requires heavy lifting”, and this is something that he believes requires bipartisanship. Smyre stated that he believes Georgia has that muscle available right now.

What the state really needs to do is iron out a few gaming issues, such as what sort of gambling is to be legalised and will racetracks be able to incorporate options like slot games, table games and sportsbooks into their establishments? Not only that, but if such options are introduced to Georgia, what will the tax money received from it go toward benefitting? Plus, is it possible for both online and mobile gaming and sports betting to be legalised at the same time?

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