Proposals seeking Georgia sports betting legalization may fail due to a lack of support from lawmakers before any bill even reaches ordinary voters.

On Thursday, the House Higher Education Committee passed out both a proposed state constitutional amendment and legislation which would authorize Georgians to bet legally on pro and college sports.

But top Democrats still wish to see changes in how any tax revenue would be spent. Without Democratic support, any amendment cannot reach the required two-thirds majority to pass the House and Senate.

And even with their support, the Republicans are far from united. Some GOP lawmakers are against sports betting, citing its links to potentially harmful behavior.

Any agreement must be reached quickly. The 2024 annual session concludes at sundown on Thursday.

Lawrenceville Democrat Sam Park, the House Minority Whip, voted to advance Senate Resolution 579 and Senate Bill 386. But he and others in his party do not support either bill in their current wording.

This is due to the House committee changing the measure to allow taxes to be used for HOPE college scholarships and prekindergarten classes.

The Senate measure prioritized pre-K, while some Democrats want the money to be diverted elsewhere. One example is for college financial aid that doesn’t require certain grades for students to qualify.

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

Two Sides To Georgia Sports Betting Legalization Debate

Supporters of the proposals argue Georgians should be allowed to vote on sports betting. They point to the fact many in the state already bet on sports illegally.

Rep. Marcus Wiedower, a Watkinson Republican sponsoring the measure in the House, said: “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.”

But opponents have warned that legalizing Georgia sports betting could lead to addiction, especially in younger people.

Rep. Clay Pirkle, and Ashburn Republican, said: “When it is sanctioned by the state, to me it provides a different level,

“If the state says it’s OK, it becomes OK for a lot of people not doing this now.”

But the Athens Republican leading efforts in that chamber is Sen. Bill Cowsert. He said he believes in the constitutional amendment, which would bring in up to $22.5 million to treat gambling addiction, would offer “the most robust problem gaming provisions of any sports betting legislation in this country.”

Across the country, 38 states have legalized sports betting. Some only permit in-person wagering, but many allow online gambling.

The earlier Georgia bill would set tax rates at 20% for sports betting. This is far higher than the 6.75% in Iowa, but nothing compared to 51% in Rhode Island and New York.