I’m not usually inclined to quote Shakespeare, but the line from Romeo and Juliet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” reminded me of Georgia’s sports betting debate. We are in the middle of Georgia’s 157th General Assembly which means, once again, we are in the middle of the debate on sports betting in Georgia. The interesting thing about this year’s debate is that we have four separate sports betting bills being pushed: SB 57, HB 380, SR 140, and SB 172. This article is not to debate the legislation, but to clarify what’s really going on so that the people of Georgia are informed.
At issue for our legislators is whether sports betting can be included under our current interpretation of the law that allows the lottery to operate or whether a constitutional amendment is required to allow sports betting since it is considered “different” from the lottery…in other words, gambling. Some argue that legislators in support of sports betting are walking this “tight-rope” to avoid public scrutiny. Those against this legislation obviously take issue with curtailing the constitutional amendment process. Thus, sports betting seems to land in the gray area of gambling for some.
I’d prefer to use simple logic. For example, in the procurement and contracting profession, one must have an offer, acceptance, and consideration to legally bind two parties by contract. Similarly, the very definition of gambling is consideration, risk, and a prize. Sports betting seems to meet this definition, especially since it’s not considered a totally “by chance” act.
I am not a legal scholar, nor do I desire to become one. I am, however, a concerned citizen of the great State of Georgia and like most Georgians, would prefer my representatives and public officials to shoot straight with me. Sports betting expands on the foundation set forth by our lottery. It would be refreshing if the sports betting debate was laid out like this, “We already have the lottery, but would like to expand these games of chance to sports betting. Heck, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door for states to legalize sports betting a few years ago. Unfortunately, on the state level, this expansion likely requires an amendment to our Constitution of the State of Georgia; and the chances of gaining 2/3 legislative vote in each chamber are not good, however. So, instead, let’s manipulate the meaning of the current language that allows the lottery, to also allow sports betting, to circumvent having to go to the floor for a full vote, as required by a constitutional amendment.” Okay, now that’s much clearer.
Now with this clearer understanding of the sports betting debate, citizens can better evaluate the moral, societal, and financial implications of having both the lottery and sports betting in Georgia. Again, my comments are geared toward the layperson, without a law degree. Perhaps the person who participates in a Fantasy Football pool from time to time (like me) or the person who does not tolerate gambling in any form. Whichever camp you sit in, you deserve clear information so that we can push our representatives to vote for our interests and values and not to obfuscate their motives. In closing, I’m not against sports betting in Georgia, but I know that most of us don’t have time to decode or decipher the complexities of legislative law.