Although the recent midterm elections saw a continuation of the status quo in most areas, underlying details suggest that there is more of a desire for change than has previously been assumed. In Georgia, this can be seen in the fact that despite defeat for gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams – who advocated for the liberalization of state gambling laws – most potential voters in the state agree with her on legalizing some forms of gambling.
A recent poll carried out in the Peach state among more than 1,000 habitual voters found that close to 60% supported the end to prohibition of casinos in the state. At present, Georgia’s only legal form of gambling is a state lottery, but the poll suggests that there is an interest in change of this law. And while this change is unlikely to come from the office of incumbent Brian Kemp, who won the gubernatorial election ahead of Abrams – there is a solid groundswell of support for some modification to the laws – a detail that candidates for and holders of political office in the state should be ready to hear.
Support for sports betting in the state is less clear-cut, and the numbers imply that it is a move that might be better saved for after the question on casinos is clarified. On simple raw numbers, the same poll that saw 59.7% of likely voters backing casino legalization saw just 45.6% in support of legal online sports betting. That’s only half of the story, however – the number who are opposed to legalization came out at 42.6%, meaning that under the terms of the poll, legal sports betting would have a chance to achieve a plurality in any referendum. Should any vote be held on a straight Yes/No basis, sports betting is currently more liked than not.
At present, this may be somewhat of an academic question, as there is not due to be another state-wide vote until the Fall of 2024. However, there is nothing to stop the question being raised in the state legislature in the mean time – a majority of the states that currently have legal gambling of one kind or another did not arrive at that position through a public vote, but through passing legislation in congress.
Countering that, though, is the fact that Republican lawmakers, who are generally against liberalization of the law in Georgia, currently hold a trifecta – that is, they hold the state Senate and House of Representatives, and the governorship of the state. Any legislation – which could be presented by a sympathetic, probably Democrat Senator or Representative – would stand little chance of being successful should it be moved to a vote. However, this is a door that sports betting advocates may wish to push in the coming months, as the weight of public opinion – and the fear of losing office – can be a significant modifier to the behaviour of incumbent lawmakers. One thing is sure: we have not heard the last of this issue in Georgia.