Will Georgia approve some form of gambling expansion?

(The Center Square) — Georgia lawmakers have long considered schemes to expand gambling in Georgia, whether it’s casino gambling or sports betting, but to date haven’t found a palatable approach.

“States with legalized sports betting [collected] an astonishing $5.5 billion … in taxes to date, showing a clear opportunity for a big state like Georgia to capitalize on the growing industry,” Business2Community Head of Data Liam Solomon told The Center Square via email.

Leading into next year’s legislative session, the question is whether Georgia could become the next state to offer some form of gambling.

“Probably not. There are still major political divides in the Legislature that may not be fixed even after this fall’s elections,” Alexander Korsager, chief gambling officer at casino.org, told The Center Square in an email. “And even with a new Legislature seated, there’s still the lingering question about the need for a voter-approved constitutional amendment.

“The best case scenario as of now appears it would be some sort of approval in early 2026 by lawmakers, voter backing in the November midterm elections, and then a launch midway through 2027,” Korsager added.

An analysis from Business2Community estimated that Georgia could have taken in $35.9 million in taxes had gambling been legal in 2024.

“The legalization and gambling expansion in Georgia would bring a big boost to the state’s economy,” Solomon said. “At Business2Community, we have projected the government would benefit from an extra $36 million in tax revenues from sportsbook operators just in the first year of legalization.

“Neighboring States such as Tennessee are also capitalizing on the sports betting industry, posting tax incomes of over $200 million since legalization in 2020,” Solomon added. “A $35 million injection into Georgia’s economy could mean an extra 1,100 police officers in communities, or 540 more public school teachers supporting children’s education and development.”

More than 81% of voters in May’s Republican primary voted in favor of a question asking whether they would “support a statewide vote to allow gaming in Georgia so the voters can decide this issue instead of politicians in Atlanta.” The vote could give Republican lawmakers the cover they need to advance a proposal.

Lawmakers have bandied about allowing some form of gambling, whether it be parimutuel wagering on horse racing, full-fledged casinos or sports betting.

“The state of Georgia would likely generate a nine-figure amount in taxes from sports betting over a 12-month period,” Chris Altruda told The Center Square via email. “Georgia has a state population of more than 11 million, very attractive to mobile sports betting operators who would be eager and aggressive in attracting new bettors to their platform by way of promotional credits and bonuses.

“Recent history shows that attractiveness to operators in the last two major state launches with comparable populations — Ohio in January 2023 and North Carolina in March 2024,” Altruda added. “In the case of Ohio, which had the largest simultaneous launch in U.S. history to ring in 2023, promotional spend the first month totaled a staggering $320 million, which accounted for 28.7% of the $1.11 billion handle.”

Although promotional spend slowed, the 12-month total for such credits and bonuses neared $700 million, Altruda said, adding that Ohio does not allow operators to deduct promotional spend against gross revenue.

“Fourteen months later, North Carolina had a smaller-scale launch with seven operators at the starting line,” Altruda said. “Promotional spend was again aggressive as $202.6 million in bonuses and credits were awarded in three weeks’ time, accounting for 30% of the $659.3 million in wagers accepted.

“Again, though the rate of spend will eventually slow, Tar Heel State operators already are at 40% of the outlay lavished in the first year in Ohio despite far fewer operators,” Altruda added. “Like Ohio, North Carolina is a state that does not allow operators to deduct for promotional spend.”

By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor

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