Georgia casinos have been discussed in the Atlanta capitol in recent legislative sessions to no avail. But a new poll from the University of Georgia finds that while there might not be adequate support for commercial gambling in the State Capitol, there is among the general public.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp debates his Democratic gubernatorial challenger Stacey Abrams in October 2022. While a majority of Georgia voters support the liberalization of commercial casinos, Kemp isn’t taking a formal position on the gambling subject. (Image: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
According to the statewide poll conducted by the Athens-based university, nearly six in 10 Georgians support ending the state’s prohibition of casino gambling.
The poll, which included responses from 1,030 state residents who regularly vote, found that 59.7% of likely voters would support a ballot referendum to amend the Georgia Constitution to permit casinos with slot machines, table games, and possibly, sports betting.
Only 29.1% said they would oppose such a measure, while 11.3% said they were unsure. Male voters more strongly backed the casino question at 63.1%. Blacks like the idea of casinos even more at 70%.
Support dwindles among those 65 and older at 51.2% — but still enough to reach the simple majority support required for a gaming referendum to pass in Georgia.
Path to Ballot
Only eight states in the US don’t have commercial or tribal casinos, with Georgia being one of the select few with that distinction.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly has, for many years, dismissed efforts to legalize casinos. The GOP has commanded both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office since 2005 — 18 years of the so-called Republican trifecta.
Gov. Brian Kemp (R) is expected to win reelection next month over Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams. Bettors on PredictIt give the Republican a 93% chance of serving another four years.
The odds of casino gambling coming to the Peach State would presumably shorten if Abrams is able to pull off the upset. Abrams supports legalizing commercial casino gambling in order to “replenish and expand the HOPE scholarship.”
The Georgia Lottery, the only form of legal gambling in the state along with small charitable games of chance, funds the HOPE Scholarship program, which is available to Georgia residents pursuing higher education at an eligible college or university.
Kemp says casinos aren’t his decision, and he is therefore not taking a specific stance. The governor has explained that a constitutional amendment cannot be vetoed, so if the General Assembly wishes to initiate a casino referendum with two-thirds majority support in each chamber, and the electorate then backs the referendum question, casinos will be allowed.
Sports Betting Support
Though the University of Georgia poll found casinos to be generally popular among the public, the issue of online sports betting garnered less support. Since Georgia doesn’t have brick-and-mortar casinos, efforts to authorize sports betting would likely take place online through interactive sportsbook platforms.
When asked if they would support legalizing online sports betting, 45.6% of poll respondents said they would, while 42.6% answered that they would not. Older respondents lent less backing to online sports betting at 26.2% support.
Both casinos and sports betting are expected to be considered again when the Georgia General Assembly convenes in January.
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