Georgia Advances Sports Betting Bills Ahead of Tight Deadline

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Georgia lawmakers advanced Monday two bills that would allow voters to legalize retail and online sports betting this November. The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee approved SB 142 and SR 135, with one week remaining in the state’s legislative session.

SB 142, the sports betting bill, will create the regulatory structure for the legal industry in the state. The other measure – SR 135 – would allow Georgians to answer if they want “sports betting and other forms of betting and gambling during this November ballot.”

Monday’s development is a significant step, but the state lawmakers need to take more critical steps before the legislative session ends April 4.

If the full House and Senate fail to pass both bills by April 4, Georgia may not legalize sports betting until at least 2025.

What Happened on Monday?

The ballot measure and sports betting bill discussion took nearly two hours. The traditional opposition to the bill centered around gambling addiction. Some lawmakers sought more time to consider the bill and the information by Committee Chairman Ron Stephens, who sponsored the bill.

But the supporters pressed the issue, citing the revenue potential from legalized sports betting, which they plan to earmark to benefit education. The supporters argued that since Georgians are already betting on offshore sites, it is perfectly fine to regulate and benefit from some of those dollars.

If Stephens and the supporters want to see legal sports betting to make on the November ballot, he must get both measures approved in both House and Senate by April 4. It is difficult to say what will happen in the coming week.

What Does Georgia Sports Betting Bill Allow?

SB 142 would create a Georgia Sports Betting Commission – a separate regulatory authority to oversee all forms of gaming. According to Rep. Stephens, the separate entity would allow lawmakers to conveniently pass iGaming and fantasy sports-related legislation in the coming years without amending the constitution.

Under the bill, the Peach State would tax sports betting operators at a 20% rate. The activity is expected to generate nearly $100 million in annual revenue. Proceeds of the revenue would go to the general fund and early education.

The bill would allow up to 18 sportsbook licenses – half of those would be reserved for Georgia’s professional sports teams. Operators would pay a $100,000 application fee and an annual fee of $1 million.

Revenue generated from the industry would go to HOPE college scholarships and Pre-K education.

How Have We Reached Here?

Last year, the Georgia Senate approved bills to amend the state constitution to allow for sports betting. But the measures did not move forward in the House.

The bills moved by the House committee this Monday amend the carried-over bills to apply to this year.

Stephens has estimated that the Georgians already lavish $1.5 billion on illegal sports betting annually.

Monday’s development comes four years after the PASPA ruling that allowed the states to legalize – if they wish to – sports betting within their state jurisdictions.

The legalization of Georgia sports betting is supported by the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance. It’s a coalition of four professional franchises – the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks, and Atlanta United.

Influential Republicans, including House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, have indicated their support for sports betting in the Peach State.

The measures now head to the House for its consideration.

Is Legalized Sports Betting Coming to Georgia?

If the House and Senate are able to pass SB 142 and SR 135 by April 4, the state voters will have them on the November ballot.

But if the lawmakers fail to approve both bills, it would be difficult to see legalized Georgia sports betting in 2023 as constitutional amendments require more votes during odd-numbered legislative sessions.

If Georgians approve the referendum, it could pave the way for other forms of Georgia online gambling legislation, such as casinos and horse racing. The measures have failed to muster enough support in the recent past.

There is no full House vote scheduled at this time.

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