Published: January 6, 2022

Georgia voters could be asked to decide gambling expansion

There is an appetite this session that I haven’t seen before to do something,” Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge, said during a media briefing Thursday. “Maybe it’s time that we asked the question of Georgians whether they want to expand gaming, and if they say yes, then we sit down and decide what form it will take, whether it’s going to be sports betting, whether you do horses or destination resorts.”

“Destination resort” is the General Assembly’s euphemism for casino.

Ralston’s comments elevate the prospect that Georgia could expand gambling beyond the lottery during the state’s annual legislative session that begins Monday. Lawmakers debate bills to add betting options every year, but they haven’t advanced.

Under Ralston’s proposal, a referendum would ask voters whether they want to increase gambling in Georgia, without defining what kinds of betting would be allowed. The General Assembly could then decide how to move forward.

Gov. Brian Kemp has long opposed legalized gambling, though he noted that if two-thirds of the Legislature and a majority of Georgia voters support the idea, it will pass regardless of his stance.

”It doesn’t matter what I think if they pass a constitutional amendment,” Kemp said.

The 2022 legislative session will get off to an accelerated start on Monday. Ralston plans to gavel in the state House at 8:30 a.m., earlier than its normal 10 a.m. session, then quickly adjourn so he and other lawmakers can travel to Indianapolis for the college football national championship game between the University of Georgia and Alabama.

“I look forward to helping bring back on Tuesday the national college football trophy to Georgia,” Ralston said.


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