While there are still some who disagree, this and Gov. Kemp’s change of heart on the matter could mean that legalizing sports betting in Georgia is a matter of when, not if
Correct, according to former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton, a constitutional amendment is not required for the state to allow legal online sports betting and should be viewed as an extension of the lottery.
The battle has been raging between both sides since the US Supreme Court opened the door to legalized sports betting in America about 4 years ago. Since then it seems like everyone with some skin in the game has stepped in to support their positions – some of which have become downright heated.
But attempts to get the necessary legislation through the General Assembly have increased this year, with the Metro Atlanta Chamber asking Melton for his views on the constitutional legality of allowing sports betting.
This is also a pertinent issue for the state of Florida, as each year hundreds of thousands of Georgians make the trek to the Sunshine State to quench their itch to sample their lunch on something more exciting than state lottery draws or scratch cards.
If Georgia enacts legislation allowing legalized sports betting and/or casino construction, many such establishments in Florida, particularly the Native American-run casinos near the Florida-Georgia border, are likely to see a sharp decline in business.
Up until now, expanding Georgia gambling beyond the lottery has been difficult as most people believed that doing so would require changing the state constitution, which is not at all easy. Because the Georgian constitution can only be changed in two steps. First, two-thirds of each legislative house must agree to put it on the ballot, and then a simple majority of voters can approve the change.
However, after Melton said the constitutional amendment is not necessary, many believe the door is now open not only to legalize the use of apps like DraftKings and FanDuel, but also to the possibility of The Peach State having its very first casinos sees is being built.
Former Chief Justice Melton explained his reasoning as follows:
“Based on my review of the relevant law, the original public meaning of the applicable terms, and the historical context of those terms, I believe that sports betting as a state lottery for educational purposes can only be legalized through legislative action,” Melton wrote in a 10-page article memo on the subject.
Gov. Brian Kemp, who is raising hopes for many Georgians now that he is entering his second term, has also announced that this year he will work with leaders in the legislature on a measure to allow sports betting, an issue he had previously discussed had declined. In addition, Lt. Governor Burt Jones, when he was state senator, passed legislation to legalize sports betting in Georgia.
Opponents of the measure say all forms of gambling are immoral, addictive and lead to crime, and pledge an uphill battle.
For years lawmakers have said that expanding gambling in the state would bolster Georgia Lottery-funded educational programs like the HOPE Scholarship, which was established nearly 30 years ago. But disagreements over where tax revenues from sports betting or legalized gambling should go have also stalled legislation.
Last year, a Senate bill appeared poised to pass the General Assembly, but it was slotted at the last minute into the powerful House Rules Committee, which decides which bills go to the vote.
Some members of that committee didn’t like the idea of money raised through sports betting taxes going to need-based grants for what Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, called “gap funding” when a student is accepted into college but it just lacks the necessary money to take part.
Sports betting advocates say that Georgians already illegally bet almost $5 billion a year on sports. Georgians can access a sports betting website or app on their phone and place bets on games – most likely via foreign servers – thereby bypassing Georgia’s laws.
A poll of Georgia voters released by Washington-based Cygnal last month found that 51% support sports betting when the proceeds are earmarked for preschool and college programs. Only 24% rejected the idea. And a 2020 poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that about 58% of Georgia voters support legalizing sports betting.
Marshall Guest, a Metro Atlanta Chamber lobbyist, said the organization is being bolstered by broad public support for legalizing sports betting and is working to make that happen this year.
“The former Chief Justice Melton is a renowned and respected lawyer, and his legal opinion makes it clear that there is a way for the legislature to legalize safe sports betting in this session and generate tens of millions of dollars in education in the process,” Guest said.
TAKE OUR SURVEY – Cast your vote in the comments section of this article for full transparency
QUESTION 1: Should Georgia legalize sports betting? Yes or no (although feel free to justify your answer in the comments if you wish).
QUESTION 2: Should Georgia allow casinos to be built? Yes or no (although feel free to justify your answer in the comments if you wish).
QUESTION 3: Should Georgia allow other types of bets such as B. OTB – Off Track Horse Racing Betting? Yes or no (although feel free to justify your answer in the comments if you wish).
Veracity editor’s note:
This unbiased, non-satirical, fully attributed article has been thoroughly researched and found to be accurate by our team of fact-checkers. The sources upon which the factual basis of this article was based were: Cygnal, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Office of the Governor, georgia.gov, Former Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court Harold D. Melton, The Associated Press, Reuters and Veracityreport.org.
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