That’s right, it’s the legislative period again: the time of year when legislations across the country often bring tremendous hope of just abandoning us.
But after 2020 there may be a reason to be optimistic. With COVID-19 likely to be brought under control in the next few months States are looking for ways to get their economies going again.
Georgia is apparently no exception. Last week, Representative Stephens, Mitchell, Hawkinsand a number of others put House Bill 86 in the Georgia House Hopper. The draft law has just been received by the regulatory committee and has tackled a tax increase along the way.
The bill would approve sports betting in Georgia through the Georgia Lottery. There may be some hiccups, however, as this law aims to legalize betting without changing the Georgia Constitution.
Past not a predictor for the future?
Peach State attempted to pass a sports betting law in 2020, but those efforts were unsuccessful in June. Stephens called last year’s bill an “Ave Maria” which just didn’t quite make it.
In particular, the draft law for 2020 would have changed the law Constitution Enable sports betting. Last year’s sports betting law was part of a series of bills that would have amended the constitution to allow for a significant expansion of gambling across the state.
Get through the clutch?
Last month, the Biloxi Sun Herald quoted Stephens as saying that sports betting will be easy to pass:
Clearly, no constitutional amendment is needed. … It’s just about us giving the (Georgia) Lottery Commission the direction and authority they already have.
The 2020 bills flop was at least partly related to an attempt to pass the bills as constitutional amendments that would require three-fifths of each side of the legislature in Georgia. However, it is unlikely that everyone would believe this could happen without a constitutional change.
No change necessary or no, change necessary?
House Bill 86 proposes that a law amending the Georgia Lottery bylaws could allow the lottery to offer sports betting without changing the constitution. This task is far more onerous than simply passing a law.
Section II, Paragraph VIII of the Georgia Constitution states:
Unless expressly stated otherwise in this Section VIII, all lotteries and the sale of lottery tickets as well as all forms of pari-mutuel betting and casino games of chance are hereby prohibited.
The exceptions listed include that the General Assembly may provide for non-profit bingo games, non-profit raffles and above all the present discussion “the operation and regulation of a lottery or lotteries by or on behalf of the state. “
Is Georgia Sports Betting a Deal?
Hardly: As in other states in the country, there seems to be some disagreement about whether the language of the Georgian constitution would allow sports betting without change. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, lawmakers’ lawyers have recommended making a constitutional amendment to sports betting.
The path of constitutional amendment is a bigger chore for lawmakers, but it could prevent litigation from groups contesting a new law. Given the lack of non-lottery gambling in Georgia, there is a chance some opposition groups will challenge a new law.
There have been a number of efforts to expand gambling in recent years, including the introduction of horse racing and casinos to Georgia. However, these efforts have stalled with the emergence of opposition groups.
What should you do with it?
There should be very cautious optimism. Georgia is something of a white whale for proponents of gambling expansion.
A state with nothing but a lottery would be a huge feat for gaming advocates, but there are still some very real hurdles to overcome, including whether it can even be done without a constitutional change.
Many states across the country wondering whether a constitutional change is necessary have stalled efforts. Countries in which the expansion of sports betting will be “easy” have already largely made use of their lead.
Even if a constitutional change isn’t ultimately necessary, it seems like the groups who historically defeated the expansion of gambling in Peach State could try again.