Commentary: Sports betting legislation needs to be stopped in the Georgia House


State Representative Todd Jones said two years ago in a press conference that it is intellectually dishonest to talk about the benefits of gambling without talking about the detriments. Notably, Rep. Jones was the co-author of the mental health legislation that was passed in 2022.

There’s no doubt that this kind of legislation has many more negatives than positives. Across the United States, especially in Tennessee and Kentucky, there have been spikes in phone calls to addiction help lines because of the legalization of this vice.

While I know that we have sports betting already taking place in our state illegally, legalizing this form of gambling is like putting gasoline on a fire rather than water. It’s just going to make it worse!

Legalizing moral vices such as state-sponsored predatory gambling is just a placebo, if you think that somehow “regulating” it, is going to somehow “sanctify it.”

Have you heard the saying, “The families that gamble together stay together”? No, it doesn’t go that way, does it? Nor does legalizing it either.

You see, over the last few years, we have 10 to 14 thousand foster children in Georgia. How many of you believe those families with those children would fare much better if they would just gamble more? You know that it would not go better.

Again, this kind of gambling is nothing more than state-sponsored predatory gambling. What this means is that this kind of gambling ends up targeting citizens and gets them to participate in something that is nothing more than legalized fraud.

I agree with my friend Les Bernal, the national director of Stop Predatory Gambling who said, “Legalized gambling is a form of financial fraud, similar to loan sharking, price gouging, and false advertising.”

In this kind of industry, the “house” always wins, not the citizens. It is the nature of the game!

A person I know who lives in North Carolina recently told me that because of the legalization of sports betting there, they have seen an increase in targeted sports betting ads. Those ads encourage more betting, which increases addiction, and social and economic costs to that state.

You see, there’s no amount of money that can be raised that will overcome the detriments of state-sponsored predatory gambling. The facts and data have already been given before the U.S. Congress that show for every dollar raised in tax revenue from gambling, it costs another 3 to 5 dollars in social cost to the government and the taxpayer.

Trust me, Georgia is the number one place to do business and the last thing we need is more state-sponsored predatory gambling that ends up targeting many of those who can least afford it.

On behalf of Georgia Baptists, we respectfully ask each one of you to please contact your State House Representative and ask them to vote no on this legislation!

Hearings on sports betting in the House Higher Education Committee are taking place for this gambling. As of the time of writing of this article, a hearing has already taken place for the enabling legislation SB 386.

There are now plans for a hearing to be held for the constitutional amendment for sports betting, SR 579. This legislation will require a two-thirds vote to pass if it makes it to vote on the floor and to be put on the ballot in November. 

These two bills could make it on to the floor of the House by next week.

See the following Gambling Update: Public Affairs Facebook video (3/12/2024).

Thank all of you for your prayers and opposition to sports betting!


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