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Last month’s referendum on sports betting in Colorado narrowly passed by a 51-49 voter margin and sent shockwaves through legislations that are hoping to send their own betting measures to voters in the next several months.
With polling suggesting that the Colorado measure would easily pass, the two-percent margin of victory signaled that perhaps sports betting is not as popular as reports suggest.
Skepticism that rang true in states like New Hampshire, where voters in several cities have recently rejected measures that would bring casinos featuring sports betting to their towns.
So with voters showing more and more that their opinions on sports betting are mixed, how do lawmakers get laws passed without the help of their constituents to bring more revenue to their pet projects such as education?
According to the American Gaming Association, the state of Georgia, the eighth biggest state in the United States, could generate up to $40 million in annual tax revenue if they open their doors to sports betting.
With tighter budgets and falling tax revenues, the state of Georgia is looking to sports betting to save their future potential deficits. But any legislation requiring an amendment to the state’s constitution must be approved by the voters before the state can offer wagering to the masses.
Although that is what the law says in Georgia, lawmakers are seeking a workaround to cut voters out of the equation. The Georgia Office of Legislative Control passed on delivering a final verdict if a sports betting-specific amendment needs to be explicitly written leaving more mystery clouding the issue.
The Office of Legislative Control wrote, “the only surefire way to avoid years of protracted litigation over the matter would be through a constitutional amendment that explicitly authorizes the legalization of sports betting in one or more forms.”
The legal question at hand for Georgia lawmakers is if they approve sports betting without the voters’ input if the law would withstand a legal challenge.
The issue would focus around if sports betting can be slotted under the prohibition in the constitution of “pari-mutuel betting,” “casino gambling” or a “lottery.”
Since several legal scholars have come out and stated that sports betting does not fall under any of those three gambling umbrellas, the legislation might be able to bypass a referendum altogether.
Other states have more control over their own sports betting destiny. In New York, lawmakers are given the power to decide what are the permissible areas of casino gambling.
The same does not hold true in Florida where lawmakers are governed by an amendment in their constitution that states “casino gambling” is classified as games “typically found in casinos.”
Although Georgia’s constitution does not explicitly outline what “casino gambling” is in an amendment, it does mean that a casino can be a “location or business for the purpose of conducting illegal gambling activities.”
The need to have a “location or business” could provide a loophole for the Georgia legislature to approve online betting first, in an effort to circumvent possible legal challenges to any passed sports wagering law.
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