Georgia Voting

  • According to House Speaker David Ralston, Georgia lawmakers are considering using a voter referendum to address gaming expansion and sports betting in Georgia.
  • The referendum would be intentionally vague, which would then allow the Georgia General Assembly to finalize the details of the gaming expansion legislation.

ATLANTA – A new proposal may allow citizens to decide if Georgia is to expand their current gaming laws. While Georgia legislators have discussed sports betting and gambling expansion legislation in each of the legislative sessions following the Supreme Court’s overturning of PASPA, the new proposal would take the issue directly to the voters.

Georgia Speaker Considering Voter Referendum

Georgia’s Speaker of the House, David Ralston, spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about his plan to take the issue of gambling expansion directly to Georgia’s voters. Ralston told the Journal-Constitution that there is a desire among lawmakers to address the issue this legislative session; moreover, since the Legislature has had difficulties getting comprehensive gaming legislation across the finish line, he believes that placing the issue on the ballot would be the best way around these difficulties.

“Maybe it’s time that we asked the question of Georgians whether they want to expand gaming, and if they say yes, then we sit down and decide what form it will take, whether it’s going to be sports betting, whether you do horses or destination resorts,” said Ralston.

According to Ralston, the Legislature is considering placing a broad “gaming expansion” ballot measure on the 2022 ballot. This referendum would simply ask Georgians if they would like to see an expansion to the state’s gaming industry – the referendum would not detail what exactly this would entail. The details of the gaming expansion, if passed, would then be ironed out by the Georgia General Assembly.

It remains to be seen what exactly the Georgia Legislature has in mind – but the across-the-board success and popularity of legal sports betting throughout the United States makes some kind of sports betting regulation a good possibility.

Still Some Barriers In The Way

There are some obstacles in the way of a potential gaming expansion in Georgia – in particular, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp. Kemp, a social conservative, has long been a vocal opponent to expanded gaming laws and legal sports betting in Georgia. Despite this strong anti-gaming stance, Kemp has also stated that if the Georgia Legislature – as well as the majority of voters – support it, he would sign the bill regardless of his personal opinion.

If Ralston’s plan to create a voter referendum on gaming expansion were to pass in the 2022 election, it would satisfy Kemp’s “majority of voters” requirement. The bill would then be sent to the General Assembly, where it would be crafted and agreed upon by lawmakers, satisfying Kemp’s “Georgia Legislature” requirement.

While the vague language of the potential voter referendum may lead to only limited expansion, it seems to be the best way to finally make legal sports betting in Georgia a reality.

Legislative Session Begins January 10

Besides sports betting and gaming expansion, Ralston told the Journal-Constitution that he wants lawmakers focused on the issues of public safety and mental health; he also said that he wants to ensure lawmakers do not get sidetracked by what he called “silly bills.” This is a reference to bills that are often introduced during election years (like 2022) that appeal only to the sponsoring politician’s core voter base, rather than addressing issues that affect larger portions of Georgians.

The 2022 legislative session in Georgia will begin on Monday, January 10. Ralston plans on opening the session at the state House at 8:15 AM as opposed to the traditional 10:00 AM start time; however, the session will be quickly adjourned to allow the lawmakers to travel to the 2022 college football National Championship Game in Indianapolis between the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide

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