Commentary: Senate committee tries ‘sneak attack’ to pass sports betting bill


Last week, the Georgia Senate Committee on Economic Development and Tourism replaced House Bill 237, sponsored by Rep. Leesa Hagan, which would establish the Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby as the official soap box derby of the State of Georgia with language that now makes it a Sports Betting bill. See my Public Affairs Ministry FB video:

Rep. Hagan was not in favor of the substitute language, but the committee still did it. She eventually had her language removed from the bill.

After substitute language was proposed to the bill, Sen. Mike Dugan had this to say, “Whoever came up with this idea just set sports betting back five years.  When you hijack a soap box derby and put sports betting on the back of it, every person that was on the fence in the state of Georgia has just now picked a side of the fence.”

Dugan went on to say, “I think everybody in here knows it won't pass on the floor and the damage you have just done the sports betting industry by trying this, is unfathomable to me.”

After Sen. Dugan’s comments, Rep. Hagan told committee Chairman, Sen. Brandon Beech, “It's hard for me to make a comment about a substitute that I've never been shown. I don't even have a copy of it here. So, what I would like to do is request if the committee is going to proceed with this, would you please strip my language from it?” 

She went on to say, “I don't want my soap box derby to be associated with sports betting and I would request that you would strip my language from this amendment.”

The Senate committee removed her language and the chairman said they would try to amend it on to something else later.

It is amazing that anyone in Senate Leadership would still be advocating for any sports betting legislation when two bills, already dealing with sports betting, have been overwhelmingly defeated on the Senate floor. This just shows how willing the legislature is at times to push what it wants.

Furthermore, it is amazing that since so many legislators have said that the majority of people in the state of Georgia want sports betting, that they would now try what could be labeled as a “sneak attack” to get it passed.

However, the latest statewide poll done in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has shown that the interest in sports betting has gone down. It was as high as 57% in 2020 and now is as low as 49% in 2023.

I think the factor that further hinders this attempt to pass sports betting, is that they would use a bill about soap box derby racing for children. As you can see there is no doubt that the sports betting industry is putting a lot of pressure on the legislature.

I still say that no matter how sports betting is attempting to be passed, it is still not worth it. There is no doubt that from the statistical data that the expansion of predatory gambling such as sports betting is much more detrimental than beneficial to the citizens in the state of Georgia. See this article here:,30582 .

The bill now goes to the Rules Committee. There it must be voted on to go to the Senate floor for a vote and it must be done before the end of the 40th day (March 29).

Now is the time to contact your Senate member and ask them to please vote no! Here is the link to the Senate members' information:

Thank you for praying and standing up!


Mike Griffin is the Public Affairs Representative of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.