Politics Could Slow Georgia Sports Betting Push This Year
The immediate future of sports betting in Georgia has fallen victim to partisanship within the state House over issues that have nothing to do with gambling.
A bill that would have legalized sports betting was set to get a vote on the House floor Thursday. But House Bill 86 was subsequently withdrawn after Democrats pulled their support in response to a Republican push to change Georgia’s voting laws.
The push to legalize gambling in the House and Senate had enjoyed bipartisan support until this week. While Republicans control both houses of the legislature, GOP lawmakers need Democratic support because of opposition within their caucus.
“If we’ve got leverage, it’s time to use it,” House Minority Leader James Beverly said, according to The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, a bill that would legalize sports betting and a constitutional amendment to allow legal gambling in the state both cleared a Senate committee.
The proposed constitutional amendment would require two-thirds support in both the House and Senate before being put to voters. That could happen no sooner than 2022, so sports betting would not happen before 2023 if the state chooses to go this route.
Pro Teams Support Sports Betting Push
The state’s professional sports teams — including the Atlanta Falcons, Hawks, Braves and United — have backed the push to legalize sports betting in Georgia. They formed the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance and are working with state legislators to allow the practice. The alliance estimates that $1.5 billion is wagered on sporting events in the Peach State, making it the 12th largest state for illegal betting.
The bill that passed the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee Thursday allows for betting on major-league professional events and on college games featuring teams from outside Georgia for those 21 and over.
This latest version of the Senate bill expanded the use of the expected tax revenues from sports betting from just pre-kindergarten education and the HOPE college scholarship program to health care expansion, broadband services and general need-based scholarships, grants and loans. The best-case scenario has sports betting generating $50 million per month in revenue for the state.
“I think this will probably generate much broader support for this initiative if we do it this way,” Republican Sen. Bill Cowsert said, according to The Georgia Recorder.
The amount of money bet each month would be limited to just $2,500 per account to prevent excessive losses. The bill also prohibits the use any legal sportsbook from extending credit to customers.
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