Sports gambling on the horizon? Big names in Georgia sports say it's already here

More players in the Georgia sports industry are coming out in favor of legalized sports gambling.

ATLANTA — It's hard to say for sure how much money is bet on sports in Georgia.

Illegal in the Peach State, sports gambling exists online and in the hidden corners of society. But some estimates put the amount at $1.5 billion in illegal money.

And Georgia doesn't see a dime.

"I think it'd be a great way to generate revenue for our state. And it wouldn't change anything anyway," said Ed Clark, president of Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Recently, Clark proposed building a billion-dollar casino resort at the track. The state constitution would have to be changed and voters would get the final say.

"The conversation right now is combining horse racing (the equestrian industry), sports betting and casino gaming all into one bill," said Clark.

Clark is the latest player in the Georgia sport's market to speak out in favor of sports betting.

Earlier in November, the leaders of Atlanta's four professional sports franchises, the Braves, Falcons, Hawks, and United, came together to encourage legalized sports gambling.

"Americans illegally wager more than $150 billion on sports every year through illegal bookmakers or offshore sites," the letter states. "Georgia is the 12th largest state for illegal wagering. It is not going away. That is why we must ensure the industry is above-board and transparent."

Supporters argue tax money generated from gambling would go to the HOPE Scholarship. Critics point to the dark side of gambling.

On Friday, Arizona Cardinals defensive back Josh Shaw was suspended indefinitely for betting on NFL games.

And any legislation faces an uphill battle at the Gold Dome. Governor Brian Kemp and House Speaker David Ralston have both expressed reservations.

However, the governor said he would open the door to letting voters decide.

"Sports betting is something that's already here. There isn't a person alive who doesn't know someone who is going to bet on a college football game this weekend, or a professional football game or a NASCAR race, or something of that nature," Clark said. "The state should be generating their share of the revenues from that."

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