Commentary: Sports betting is too dangerous to put on a ballot


Just a couple of years ago a hearing was held in the Georgia Senate regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana. Though no vote was taken on the legislation, the most striking element of the hearing was the numerous negative comments from the Senate committee members and those who testified against the legislation. When the dangers of legalizing recreational marijuana were uncovered, it was obvious that no one wanted this legislation to be considered on a ballot as a constitutional amendment.

The point was crystal clear: Recreational marijuana is so dangerous that we should not risk making a bad problem with marijuana even worse.

Exactly the same argument can be made against the further legalization of state-sponsored predatory gambling in Georgia. Existing forms of legal gambling -- the lottery as well as what had been known as “video poker” in the past (now known as Coin Operated Amusement Machines, Class B) -- have already created problems that would be exacerbated by adding dangerous and even more accessible avenues of gambling on iPhones and the internet.

Because illegal sports betting already happens in Georgia, promoters of Big Gambling mimic those of Big Pot by arguing that we might as well make it legal and “do a better job of regulating it.”

But we have already seen repeatedly when it comes to legalizing social moral vices, that the theoretical benefits – economic and otherwise -- do not match the devastating negative impact that further availability of these kinds of things produces in our culture.

Studies have been presented before the US Congress that prove that every dollar raised in tax revenue from gambling will cost the government and taxpayers between $3 and $5 in social expenses.

Once again, sports betting legislation is on the move in the Georgia State Senate. On Tuesday, Feb. 13, the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee voted in favor of a Constitutional amendment to be put on the ballot in November.

This legislation still must pass the Rules Committee and go to the Senate floor for a vote. It will require a two-thirds majority to pass it over to the House for consideration. This vote could take place as soon as next Tuesday, Feb.20.

Now, is the time for you to reach out to your state senator and ask them to please vote no on this legislation! If you are a pastor, I am asking you to please announce this in your church on Sunday.

It is beyond any reasoning that I can understand that would justify putting the expansion of state-sponsored predatory gambling on the ballot, when our citizens will be manipulated by false advertising – financed by the almost unlimited resources of Big Gambling -- into believing that the “benefits” of sports gambling outweigh the detriments. It has already been reported that the pro-gambling industry on ballot initiatives can outspend their opposition as much as 250-to-1!

Just the facts of the negative impact gambling has on our society proves that it is not a risk that is worth taking. The socioeconomic and mental health issues are way too risky to allow this to be put on a ballot initiative.

Our citizens have already decided that the legislature should determine when the benefits of something being put on the ballot would outweigh the risks. The evidence of dangerous consequences from gambling expansion – just like that of recreational marijuana – is overwhelming.

Given these undeniable facts, a responsible legislature should not take a chance with expanding state-sponsored predatory gambling in our state. It, like all predatory gambling, is just legalized fraud.

Now is the time for you to contact your legislators and ask them to vote no regarding this constitutional amendment. Your children and your children’s children are depending on you.

See the following handout for more information on this subject. This data is based upon the “ABC’s of Gambling” information that was put together by Professor John Kindt in a handout:

As you can see from the data, any expansion of gambling in the state of Georgia, including sports betting, is just too dangerous to put on a ballot!


Mike Griffin is the Public Affairs Representative of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.