Gambling dead in Georgia? Lawmakers say 'no' to sports betting, horse racing


ATLANTA – Georgia lawmakers have rejected three bills that would have  legalized  sports betting and pari-mutuel wagering on horse races in the Bible Belt state.

The latest loss for pro-gambling forces came Monday when they were unable to convince enough Senate lawmakers to approve a proposed constitutional amendment. The proposal fell short of the two-thirds supermajority it needed to pass.

The Senate had shot down a separate bill last week that would have legalized sports gambling and opened the door to pari-mutuel betting on horse racing in Georgia.

In the House, a separate sports betting bill,  which would have authorized sports gambling without pursuing a constitutional amendment, wasn't called for a floor vote  before Monday's self-imposed legislative deadline, effectively killing the proposal.

Pro-gambling advocates have been pushing their cause in Georgia for years. Their only success so far was in creating the state lottery in 1992.

Georgia Baptists, who make up the state’s largest evangelical group with 1.4 million members, had opposed the gambling measures.

“Gambling has the potential to destroy whole families through addiction, bankruptcy,” said Mike Griffin, public affairs representative for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.  “We do not need gambling made legal at any level in the state of Georgia.”

State Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, said last week that any state revenue expanded gambling would generate for the state would come out of the pockets of many of the people who can least afford to give it up.

“The issue of gambling is that there’s always a loser," said Harbin, a Baptist. "There can never be a winner without a loser.”

State Sen. Bill Cowsert, a Republican from Athens who sponsored the measure calling for a constitutional amendment, had argued unsuccessfully that voters should be allowed to decide whether to expand gambling through a ballot referendum.


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