After many failed attempts, sports betting could soon be legalized in Georgia. Senate Bill 386, which would authorize online sports wagering, passed a state Senate committee on Tuesday.
The Economic Development and Tourism Committee voted in favor of the bill 8-2 and it would advance to the full state Senate during the following week for further debate.
If passed, the bill would grant a total of 16 licenses. The bill would necessitate a majority vote of both chambers and the endorsement of Governor Brian Kemp. In contrast, a constitutional amendment would require two-thirds of the Legislature plus approval by a majority of voters in a statewide referendum to expand gambling. Whether this is legal or not is why the industry has remained at a standstill for several years in the state.
According to supporters of the bill, sports wagering could be set up under the monitoring of the Georgia Lottery Corporation without subjecting it to a statewide vote requiring a constitutional amendment. While some Democrats have expressed support for the measure, some Republicans oppose gambling on moral grounds.
Clinton Randall Dixon, a Republican member of the Georgia State Senate, expressed an opinion that the measure was reasonable, as all tax proceeds from sports gambling would be allocated to education programs, including prekindergarten classes and Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship Program.
On the other hand, opponents of legalizing sports wagering argue that circumventing the amendment would violate the constitution of the state. Similar efforts to authorize sports betting failed in 2023.
The Bill Proposes to Tax Sports Betting Revenue at 20
If passed, the bill would subject sports betting operators to a tax rate of 20% of their Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR). The Georgia Lottery will immediately receive one license and will be responsible for granting another seven licenses to sports betting operators. They would be required to pay an application fee amounting to $100,000, as well as an annual license fee of $1 Million. The remaining eight licenses will be distributed between Atlanta professional sports teams, the Augusta National Golf Club, PGA, and the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Mike Griffin, who is an opponent of authorizing sports betting described the industry as “legalized fraud”. He said that the gambling industry has always had an advantage over bettors.
However, Dexter Sharper, Georgia State Representative, said that the state could benefit from the revenue generated from legalized sports betting and use it for different causes, instead of letting it leak to other states and unlicensed operators.
Efforts to legalize sports betting in Georgia gained prominence in 2020 when several Atlanta pro sports teams allied to ask legislators to support the industry. They, in turn, have been divided between the pros and cons of a regulated gambling market, leading to failed attempts to legalize it.