Georgia Sports Betting Referendum Bill Advances to House

Georgia Sports Betting Referendum Bill Advances to House
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The Georgia State Senate on Friday approved a constitutional amendment and a separate bill that could allow legal sports betting in the Peach State as soon as 2023.

The proposed constitutional amendment passed 41-10, getting the necessary two-thirds vote passage. A bill detailing the process of how sports betting would work in Georgia then was approved on a 34-17 vote.

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The constitutional amendment process was sought as a compromise among supporters of sports betting in the state to win over skeptics. It now moves to the House and requires a two-thirds vote there before the voters have their say in November 2022.

"A ‘no’ vote for this bill is to allow the bookies to control sports betting,” said co-sponsor Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, during debate on the constitutional amendment. “The ones who send Guido to break your legs if you don't pay. A ‘yes’ vote is to allow the people who elected you to be in control.”

Much of the Senate debate was consumed over how the revenue from sports betting would be spent by the state. Revenues from the lottery are limited to educational needs. Revenue from sports betting would be allocated to rural health care, rural broad band and need-based scholarships. The exact details how much each would get would be worked out in the annual appropriations process, senators said.

Politics have been a stumbling block, but the Senate vote is a strong start to getting sports betting over the finish line in Georgia.

Sports Betting Push Backed By Pro Teams

The push for legal Georgia sports betting enjoys the support of the state’s professional sports teams, including the Atlanta Falcons, Hawks, Braves and United. The teams have formed the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance, which is working with state legislators to green-light the practice.

RELATED: Georgia looks to build on online gaming progress in 2021

An estimated $1.5 billion is wagered illegally on sporting events in Georgia, the Alliance claims, making it the 12th largest state in the nation for illegal betting. A similar piece of legislation in the house, HB 86, calls for a $900,000 annual licensing fee for legal bookmakers in the state.

The subsequent bill in Georgia passed Friday — SB 142 — limits wagering to those 21 and over, those within the state of Georgia and would prohibit the sportsbook to extend credit to any customers. The state will also require books to have $5 million in reserve to pay off all bettors.

Six licenses would be granted to operate online sportsbooks in Georgia. They would each pay a $10,000 application fee and an annual $100,000 operating free.

Under the Senate bill, sportsbooks would pay 16% in taxes on their income to the state. That’s higher than the amount sought in similar bills proposed in the House.

“I know this process is just beginning,” Mullis said. “This is the enabling. This Is the nuts and bolts of us. This is to allow us, the representatives of the people, to pass this.”

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