For the second time in a less than a week, the state Senate shot down legislation Monday aimed at legalizing sports betting in Georgia.
While 30 of the 56 senators voted in favor of Senate Resolution 140, it fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass a constitutional amendment.
Last week, the Senate defeated a second sports betting bill that did not require changing Georgia’s Constitution to bring online sports betting to the Peach State.
On Monday, Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, the chief sponsor of Senate Resolution 140, argued the constitutional route was the best way to go because it would have let Georgia voters decide whether to legalize sports betting.
“I don’t get why it’s wrong to let the people of Georgia vote on this issue,” Cowsert said. “We’re not dictators up here.”
But Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, said it would be irresponsible for senators to pass the issue to voters.
“They do not all the information you and I have,” he told his Senate colleagues. “When we put it out there, we’re washing our hands of it.”
Harbin also opposed legalizing gambling because of its potential to lead to addictive gambling.
The resolution’s supporters pitched it as a way to create a needs-based scholarship program in Georgia to supplement the HOPE Scholarship program, which is based on merit. Under the legislation, half of the state’s share of the proceeds from sports betting would have gone to needs-based scholarships.
“We need needs-based funds,” said Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta. “This bill puts that in place.”
But Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, argued a needs-based scholarship program is no longer necessary in Georgia because Gov. Brian Kemp and the General Assembly now have fully funded the HOPE program more than a decade after the Great Recession prompted cuts in HOPE benefits.
“We should reward success,” Beach said. “If you have a ‘B’ average, you get your education paid for.”
Beach proposed amendments to bar needs-based scholarships and broaden the sports betting resolution by adding casinos and pari-mutuel betting on horse racing to sports betting, but they were soundly defeated.
The loss of the underlying constitutional amendment as well as the defeat of last week’s Senate bill left supporters of sports betting with just one remaining option. A House bill legalizing sports betting without a constitutional amendment was pending in the House Rules Committee on Monday and subject to a vote sending it to the House floor.
This story comes to Rough Draft through a partnership with Capitol Beat.