The Atlanta Braves begin defending their World Series title Thursday at Truist Park.
But amid the celebration over last year’s championship, a top club official says he’s disappointed that another effort to legalize sports betting in Georgia has failed.
Despite a last-minute push by supporters of expanded gambling, the Georgia legislature ended its 40-day session this week without taking decisive action.
It marked another setback in the three-year push by Atlanta’s pro sports teams to legalize betting.
“I’m incredibly disappointed it didn’t happen again,” said Braves’ president and CEO Derek Schiller, who says sports fans who want to bet on games in Georgia will have to continue doing so illegally.
“It’s time that we take it out of the shadows, we regulate it and that Georgia benefits from it in the form of tax dollars,” Schiller said.
More than half of states in the U.S., including neighboring Tennessee, have legalized sports betting. A 2018 Supreme Court ruling paved the way for more states to do so. But Georgia lawmakers who oppose expanded gambling cite the risk of addiction and financial ruin.
A resolution that sought to legalize more forms of gambling in Georgia advanced out of a House committee last week, but all gambling-related language was stripped out when it came to the House floor on Monday, the final day of the legislative session.
Even if lawmakers had passed the resolution, voters would still have to approve a referendum to amend the state’s Constitution.
“I really hope it happens next year, we’re firmly in support of it,” Schiller said. “It’s time we got it done.”
Major League Baseball has done a 180-degree turn when it comes to sports betting in recent years. Clubs see legalized gambling as a way to increase fan interest and involvement.
Despite the lack of progress in Georgia, Schiller says the Braves are expecting another “phenomenal year” in attendance, thanks in part to last year’s World Series win. Last year, the club was second in the league in attendance, drawing more than 2.3 million fans during the regular season.
The Braves open their season with four games against Cincinnati beginning Thursday at Truist Park. The regular season is starting a week late because of the off-season lockout.
“We expect to have many sold out games,” said Schiller. “We’re already selling standing-room-only tickets for Thursday, Friday and Saturday’s games.”