In a recent poll, conducted by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, registered voters in Georgia signaled their support for legalizing sports betting and creating an expansion of the state’s casino gambling.
Georgia’s legislation, looking for new streams of revenue to head off an upcoming deficit, is considering the legalization of sports betting and casino gambling. Multiple proposals are being discussed in the state’s legislature that could soon turn into proposals that lawmakers would use as the basis for bills.
If any bill is passed, then it becomes a referendum that the voters of Georgia will vote to create a constitutional amendment that expands gambling statewide.
In the newspaper’s polling, 64% of registered voters signaled that they are in favor of expanding casino gambling in the state. 57% of voters also approved the legalization of sports betting in Georgia.
One respondent in the AJC poll believed that wagering and casino gambling was a personal decision that should not be prohibited by state law and that a referendum was a needed antidote to creating more revenue for the state.
“If people want to blow their money, let them. I’m OK with it,” said Michael Morris, an I.T. specialist. “I’m not going to do it, but if someone else does, go for it. I believe there should be no laws written designed to protect a person against themselves.”
For opponents of the bill in the AJC poll, there was skepticism that the profits from a sports betting and gambling expansion bill would actually benefit the people of Georgia.
“Where does all the money go to? Somebody’s pockets are probably going to get lined,” said Greg Epperson, an electronic engineer. “Will it actually benefit the people? Sometimes money has a way of disappearing and going into the wrong direction.”
The betting expansion was welcomed across most political affiliations except voters who consider themselves “very conservative.” The same held true across demographic categories such as age.
In the poll, nearly 75% of voters aged 18-29 supported sports betting, while just 50% of voters over the age of 65 said gambling via casinos and wagering on sporting events is a good idea.
For some proponents of expansion, the desire to keep tourism dollars in Georgia, rather than watching the money go to other states such as Nevada is a strong reason why they want the state to create a constitutional amendment to allow wagering.
For the bill to get on the November ballot, the House and Senate in Georgia will have to create a measure that receives two-thirds support in each chamber. Considering the hesitation of a broad expansion by those identifying as very conservative, some Republican lawmakers may have a hard time getting behind a law in fear of upsetting the voters they need in November.
Public support for betting in Georgia has risen in the months after the four professional teams in Atlanta joined forces to declare that they wanted wagering in the state as a method of keeping fans engaged in their sports.
Estimates place the illegal amount bet in Georgia each year at around $1.5 billion annually, a number that will certainly push some lawmakers to approve a bill in order to squash the state’s black market.
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