The Georgia Sports Betting Pipe Dream Turns Into Nightmare for Supporters as Bill Gets Hijacked

Written by:
Gilbert Horowitz
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A proposal to legalize online sports betting was revived by a Georgia Senate committee on Thursday, but under quite unusual circumstances that is serving to turn off quite a few lawmakers.

The Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee amended House Bill 237 to include the legalization of online betting by early 2024.

Rep. Leesa Hagan, a Lyons Republican, isn't happy that a bill she helped sponsor is now tied to sports gambling.

Hers was a bill that would have designated Southeast Soap Box Derby in Lyons as the state’s official soap box derby.

“I don’t want my soap box derby to be associated with sports betting," she said.

Rules allow for Georgia lawmakers to completely “gut and replace” bills that have nothing to do with their own agendas.


Sen. Mike Dugan, a Carrollton Republican, did not hold back in saying that this move “just set sports betting back five years”

“When you hijack a soapbox derby and put sports betting on the back of it, every person that was on the fence in the state of Georgia has just now picked a side of the fence,” Dugan said. “So I can’t support this.”

A prior attempt to pass sports betting legislation in the Peachtree State recently failed and the current legislative session in Georgia ends in less than two weeks.

The move not only faces time restaints, it's likely to leave a sour taste in the mouths of some lawmakers come next year should a similar measure be introduced.

Chairman Brandon Beach, an Alpharetta Republican, claims the plan was supported by Lt. Gov. Burt Jones.  A spokesperson for Jones confirmed this to be the case with the Associated Press.

“We don’t close the door on anything,” Burns, a Newington Republican, said in an appearance before the Atlanta Press Club.

Professional sports teams based in the state like the Falcons and Braves support legalized sports betting.  They'd each be licensed to operate sportsbooks.

Georgia currently has little in the way of any legalized gambling. The only types of gambling permitted in Georgia are lottery betting, bingo games, and raffles.

A previous sports betting measure was nixed just two weeks ago.  The state senate rejected a constitutional amendment that would have allowed voters to decide whether to legalize sports gambling.  The House never considered the bill.

“I don’t get why it’s wrong to let the people vote on this issue. We’re not all petty dictators up here,” said Sen. Bill Cowsert, an Athens Republican who sponsored the measure.

In the end, House Speaker Jon Burns never even called the measure to the floor for debate.

“The folks that advocated for the sports betting bill worked very diligently,” Burns said. “They worked very hard to inform the members. We just didn’t get quite get to the spot where we could get it across the finish line this year.”

And the odds of this happening now after pissing off a few folks on the fence are close to zero as we see it here at

- Gilbert Horowitz,

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