Georgia Sports Betting According to the Next Super Bowl? A Path Forward Is Becoming Clear

After years of debate at the Capitol, Georgia sports fans may have the opportunity to bet on sports legally from the comfort of their living rooms. As competing bills to legalize sports betting make their way through the Georgia Legislature ahead of Monday’s transition deadline, a path forward is becoming clear.

On Thursday, the Senate voted down a bill to legalize horse racing that also included online sports betting – highlighting the desire among political leaders for a single sports betting bill heading the Governor’s desk.

Meanwhile, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has indicated his willingness to legalize sports betting, and polls show voters are enthusiastic about the prospect – no doubt seeing how their friends and families in other states have the freedom to bet. put on big CSS days.

HB 380, which authorizes sports betting and puts the Georgia Lottery in charge of regulating it — and giving fans a chance to place bets on next year’s Super Bowl — appears to have the best chance.

The Legislature considered other legal frameworks, including proposals to pass sports betting through a constitutional amendment. But a legislatively proposed constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds affirmative vote in both chambers of the Georgia General Assembly before it can be submitted to the electorate, and, even if that high threshold can be cleared, the sooner he can. be placed on the November 2024 statewide ballot.

A constitutional pathway would delay the implementation of sports betting by at least two years.

In contrast, a legislatively authorized sports betting framework – which would only need majority approval to pass – could be implemented as early as this year.

The Georgia Constitution only limits specific types of betting or gambling

Some opposed the legislative path, arguing it would violate the Georgia Constitution.

But the Georgia Constitution does not stand in the way of legislative authorization of sports betting. It only prohibits “pari-mutuel betting” and “casino gambling” – while authorizing the state lottery.

I am a gaming law practitioner and law school professor who specializes in gaming law, sports betting, and state constitutional issues, and I have seen how other states have used their state lotteries to effectively regulate and administer sports betting.

Georgians need look no further than Tennessee to find a state lottery-regulated sports betting market that operates and generates tens of thousands of dollars in revenue for the state. West Virginia and five other states have lottery sports betting frameworks.

A 2019 legal opinion from the Office of Legislative Draftsmen recognizes the viability of the state-operated lottery option for sports betting, noting that “the General Assembly appears to have given the [Georgia] The Lottery Corporation has the authority if the Corporation so chooses, to allow sports betting as an official lottery game.”

The specific carveout for the Georgia Lottery would insulate the lottery sports betting framework from any successful constitutional attack.

But even without that carveout, the legislative authorization for sports betting would not violate the Georgia Constitution.

Although some have mistakenly treated the constitutional ban as a “wholesale ban” on all betting (except state lotteries and non-profit bingo), the reality is that the remaining bans on pari-mutuel betting and casino gambling are limited from in terms of scope. Even the OLC acknowledged in its 2019 opinion—directed to Georgia state Senator Brandon Beach—that pari-mutuel betting and casino gambling have limited and specific meanings.” Neither species of gambling includes sports betting.

Sports betting is not a form of pari-mutuel betting

Pari-mutuel betting is a form of betting where the aggregate amount of all bets is “pooled” and then distributed (minus management fees and taxes) to those with winning tickets.

The essential feature of pari-mutuel betting is that participants do not bet against a “house” (as they do in sports betting). Instead they bet against each other and determine the “odds” of an event, which are not known or known in advance, by their betting among themselves.

Initiated by Joseph Oller in Paris in the early 1860s, “pari-mutuel” means “bet ourselves.” In this type of betting, players are pitted against each other instead of being settled by a bookie or the house.

In pari-mutuel betting, a player’s odds vary based on the bets placed by other players and the amount bet by those other players. In contrast, in sports betting, the bettor and bookmaker agree to the odds in advance and are not affected by the bets placed by other bettors.

So, as long as Georgia lawmakers enact a sports betting regime that excludes “pooled” horse racing-style betting from the menu of permitted betting formats, there is no risk that sports betting will run afoul of the state’s constitutional ban on pari-mutuel betting. – mutual.

Sports betting is not casino style gambling

Casino gambling is a physical structure for gambling, consistent with the ordinary meaning of the word “casino.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines “casino” as “a gambling building or room.”

Georgia law also recognizes that casino gambling is synonymous with a physical location for gambling. Although the Georgia Constitution does not provide a definition, the legislature has defined “casino gambling” as “a location or business for the purpose of conducting illegal gambling activities.”

The Georgia Court of Appeals has interpreted this statutory definition to focus on “the place” where the gambling takes place. In Jackson v. Georgia Lottery Corporation, the Court of Appeals held that the games operated by the state lottery “Money Three” and “Quick Money” did not fall within the definition of “casino gaming” because “there was no argument. . . . that these contentious games are played i locations for the purposes of conducting illegal gambling activities.”

The federal government and state Attorneys General across the country have made it clear that sports betting is a very different species of gambling than casino gambling. Players aren’t pulling levers or rolling the dice when they place a sports bet – they’re sizing up teams and players, weighing contracts, and watching the latest games. West Virginia (which has a similar ban on casino games in its constitution), Colorado, and Michigan have ruled that legal sports betting is not casino-style gambling and requires a level of skill and knowledge not present in casino-style games.

Recently, I analyzed the question of whether sports betting is casino-style gambling as part of a just-published Chapman Law Review article assessing whether legislative authorization of sports betting would violate state constitutional prohibitions against casino gambling. My detailed legal analysis – concluding that it falls outside the scope – should have weighed on the issue in Georgia.

That opinion is shared here in the Peach State by former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton, who has argued that the state lottery sports betting market is well within the bounds of the state constitution.

Georgia’s elected leaders have long viewed a lottery-run sports betting framework within their constitutional authority as well. Three years ago, then State Senator and now Georgia Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones introduced an online sports betting bill very similar to the one currently being considered in the Georgia House.

If Georgia lawmakers pass HB 380 out of the House this week, Georgians will be one step closer to being able to legally place bets and generate revenue for important Georgia priorities.

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