Published: February 15, 2024

Georgia Senate Committee advances constitutional amendment for sports betting referendum

A proposed constitutional amendment permitting Georgians to decide on the legalization of sports betting within the state has cleared a state Senate committee. The bipartisan measure, known as Senate Resolution 579, received unanimous support from the Senate Regulated Industries Committee late on Tuesday, marking a pivotal step in the legislative process.

If approved, the proposed legislation would establish a gaming commission under the jurisdiction of the Georgia Lottery Corp., tasked with regulating sports betting activities. The amendment also outlines a distribution plan for tax revenue generated from sports betting, with 80% earmarked for Georgia’s HOPE Scholarships and prekindergarten programs.

Meanwhile, 15% would be dedicated to combatting addictive gambling, while 5% is designated for the promotion of sporting events in the state, a provision advocated for by a coalition of professional sports teams based in Atlanta.

Senator Brandon Beach, representing Alpharetta and a proponent of the resolution, emphasized the importance of allowing voters to have a say in the matter. "You can never go wrong letting the voters have a vote," Senator Beach remarked during the committee hearing.

However, the legislation encountered opposition from various quarters, including members of faith-based organizations and individuals concerned about the societal implications of legalized gambling.

John Kindt, a retired business professor from Illinois who has extensively researched the adverse effects of gambling, likened the legalization of sports betting to endorsing dangerous substances. "This is like legalizing heroin or cocaine," Kindt asserted.

Taylor Hawkins, the director of advocacy for FrontLine Policy Action, a Christian advocacy group, expressed skepticism about the proposed allocation of tax revenue to address problem gambling. Hawkins contended that such measures would not adequately offset the potential harm caused by widespread gambling legalization, likening it to "putting water in a bucket while pouring gas on a fire."

Earlier this month, the full Senate passed a preliminary "enabling" bill, Senate Bill 386, which delineates the regulatory framework for sports betting pending approval of the constitutional amendment by Georgia voters.

While the enabling bill garnered support from a majority of senators, constitutional amendments necessitate a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate to pass. Senate Resolution 579 now proceeds to the Senate Rules Committee for further consideration and scheduling of a floor vote.

© Public Gaming Research Institute. All rights reserved.