There is a growing sense of hope regarding legalized sports betting in Georgia. Senate Bill 403 was proposed in February 2020 and had varying levels of support among lawmakers. Perhaps most importantly, the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Braves, and Atlanta United are all on board.
When the fight to keep PASPA was alive, the sports leagues and their lawyers were consistently lobbying against an expansion of sports betting. Now, in the post-PASPA world, the sports leagues and the teams have dramatically changed their tunes and seem to be on board. Maybe the support of the leagues and the studies that have shown how much money can go to fund Georgia education will be enough to push betting through. And maybe as early as 2020.
The interesting thing about the Georgia sports betting bill is that the Peach State does not have any legalized casino gambling at this time. It remains to be seen whether Georgia will adopt the same approach as Tennessee and just do an all-online, all-mobile sports betting infrastructure or if the Georgia legislation ultimately includes the construction of casinos.
At this point in time, the bill is centered around running sports betting through the state lottery, which is akin to the setup in Tennessee. If Georgia opts to go in the same direction as Tennessee, that would mean that a lot of operators would be allowed to set up shop in the state and create a very competitive betting environment and a very lucrative business model for the state’s education coffers.
Depending on the language agreed to in the proposals, Georgia could get sports betting without having to put it to a state vote. Like so many states, an expansion of gaming, casino gaming in particular, requires an amendment to the state constitution. To run sports betting through the lottery could potentially eliminate the need for going to a vote, though Georgians would be likely to pass a sports betting measure. It would just simplify the process for the lawmakers and it would just be about getting enough ‘Yes’ votes behind closed doors.
We’re talking about a lot of money here, especially with a city and metro area as big as Atlanta. Because there are no physical gaming facilities, Georgia would either have to go the online and mobile route or run it through the lottery including any approved vendors like bars, convenience stores, and even restaurants. Given those parameters, betting would be available to everybody in Georgia, which would make it very attractive to operators like DraftKings, William Hill, FanDuel, and PointsBet. The idea of not having to fight with a brick-and-mortar company like Caesars or MGM would create a lot of opportunities for licenses.
It may have seemed early in the process like Georgia was going to be one of the later states to approve sports betting, but times are changing quickly and Tennessee, the guinea pig to the north, could really push sports betting legislation through in Georgia in short order.
Right now, you cannot bet on sports in Georgia, however, hopes are higher than ever that legalized sports betting will be coming. It seems like 2020 could be the year to get legislation passed and 2021 could be the time for operations to begin.
In the meantime, options are very limited when it comes to betting on sports. Tennessee will be the best bet for those that want to bet on sports, which should be possible sometime in Q2 or Q3 of 2020. Because Tennessee is going to support mobile and online betting, all that would be required is a trip north up I-75 to Chattanooga from a major city like Atlanta. As long as the geolocation tracking places the user within the state borders, the apps and websites will be accessible. Tennessee could see a significant boost in betting revenue from the Atlanta area, much like we saw in Indiana from Chicago and in New Jersey from New York City. It wouldn’t even require a trip all the way into Chattanooga. All that would be required is getting over the border.
Otherwise, and especially until Tennessee gets up and running, there are very few options for Georgians. The state shares borders with Alabama, South Carolina, Florida, and North Carolina otherwise. Retail sports betting is legal in North Carolina, but only at the Harrah’s properties up in the Great Smoky Mountains, so that is a haul.
Like most people in states that don’t have gambling, places like Las Vegas or Atlantic City are options. Atlantic City is in New Jersey, which is the state that ultimately got PASPA overturned and there are a ton of operators and a ton of sports betting options. Las Vegas remains the epicenter of sports betting.
So, until Tennessee goes live, the only options is to find a state with legalized sports betting during your travels. But, don’t fret because it looks like Georgia will be on the list of approved states sooner rather than later.