The Georgia state senate voted to soundly reject the passage of a sports betting bill through its chamber on Thursday. Senate Bill 57 was defeated by 37 votes against 19 in favor. Senators opposed to gambling joined forces with those who believed it required a constitutional amendment first.
The bill’s supporters had argued that it would not require this constitutional amendment because the legislation did not legalize either casinos or pari-mutuel betting. These are the only two forms of betting that are forbidden by Georgia’s constitution.
A separate sports betting legislation that does require a constitutional change is also pending in the state Senate. However, this bill would be limited to online betting and therefore “wouldn’t have a significant economic impact,” on the Peach State according to Senator Bill Hickman.
Hickman is the chief sponsor of Bill 57 and says that the legislation would create plentiful job opportunities for Georgians. He stated that: “When you just bet on sports on your phone, no jobs are created.”
Hickman backed his claims by citing a study by Georgia Southern University last year, which found that sports betting could inject $1.1bn into the Peach State’s economy annually. The study also said that sports betting could create approximately 8,500 jobs.
A great deal of these potential jobs would come from raising racehorses and growing hay to feed them. Bill 57 proposes the building of three horse racing tracks in Georgia.
Furthermore, Hickman argued that the state share of the proceeds of sports betting would raise an estimated $250m – $350m per year for Georgia’s ‘Hope’ scholarships and pre-kindergarten programs.
However, the bill faced fierce opposition. Senator Marty Harbin argued that the revenue generated by sports betting would not offset the social toll of expanded legalized gambling in Georgia.
Harbin commented: “Much like drugs and alcohol, [gambling] leads to addiction. “Gambling is financial foolishness. … the house always wins.”