ATLANTA – Legalized gambling has emerged in the General Assembly with just four days remaining in this year’s legislative session.
The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee approved a constitutional amendment Monday asking voters whether to legalize sports betting and “other forms of betting and gambling” in Georgia. Those “other forms” of gambling would include casinos and pari-mutuel betting on horse racing.
The comprehensive proposal – Senate Resolution 135 – follows years of failed efforts to legalize various forms of gambling separately.
Those efforts reached a high-water mark last year when the state Senate passed a constitutional amendment aimed at legalizing online sports betting. While that measure fizzled in the House at the end of last year’s session, it remained alive for consideration this year.
A Senate committee approved a constitutional amendment during this year’s session limited to horse racing, but it failed to reach the Senate floor before the Crossover Day deadline for bills to clear at least one legislative chamber to stay alive.
The legislation the House committee passed on Monday resurrects the 2021 constitutional change, with casinos and horse racing added.
A major selling point in the various efforts to legalize gambling in Georgia over the years is that the tax revenue from gambling proceeds would go toward education and other vital services.
Under Senate Resolution 135, all the tax proceeds from sports betting would go toward education. Half of that money would support the HOPE Scholarships program, while the other half would go toward need-based college tuition grants and scholarships.
Half of the proceeds from casinos and horse racing would go toward health care, with 20% going to economic development in “less developed” areas of the state. HOPE and need-based grants and scholarships would split the remaining 30% evenly.
Since casinos and horse racing would require building facilities in specific locations, a local referendum would be required for a casino or racetrack to open in a community.
The legislation is expected to reach the House floor by the end of the week.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.