Georgia Sports Betting Bills Continue to Move Forward

Georgia Sports Betting Bills Continue to Move Forward
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The path to legal sports betting in Georgia faces its next hurdle in the state Senate as soon as next week.

Two bills that would enable the Georgia Lottery to regulate and tax wagers on athletic events and award six licenses to legal sportsbooks are pending in both branches of the state legislature.

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A bill from a group of powerful of senators mirrors one passed by a House committee earlier in February. Both bills would allow wagers by people 21 and over on pro sports and major college games that do not involve schools in Georgia.

The Senate bill faces an up-or-down vote in the Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities. That vote could happen next week. The major difference in the two bills is the size of Georgia’s takeaway. The Senate bill seeks a 10% tax on the income generated by betting, while the House bill has it at 14%.

In presenting his bill, Senate Rules Committee Chair Jeff Mullis cited the widespread presence of illegal and offshore sports betting and the state’s wish to get its take of something that is already occurring.

“The estimate is over 2 million Georgians are doing it now, and do you know who has control of this? The bookies,” Mullis said, according to a story in The Georgia Recorder. “The people that are controlling the spread and all those aspects of wagering. If you will honor me in supporting this issue, it will be regulated by the Georgia Lottery, it will go to good causes like the Georgia HOPE Scholarship.”

Among Georgia’s surrounding states, Tennessee allows online betting and saw more than $300 million bet in the first two months the market has been live.

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 in the Peach State.

The alliance estimates that $1.5 billion is wagered on sporting events in Georgia, making it the 12th largest state in the nation for illegal betting. House Economic Development and Tourism Committee chairman Ron Stephens said even a 10% tax on sports betting revenue would generate $46 million per year. HB 86 calls for a $900,000 annual licensing fee for legal bookmakers in the state.

Stephens, who filed HB 86 in January also cited the loss of fan engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic in his push for legalized wagering. All four major pro sports leagues operating in Georgia completed seasons in 2020, but most games were played with no spectators in the stands.

“It’s for fan participation,” Stephens told his committee before the bill passed, according to The Associated Press. “The stands are empty. … They believe that fan engagement is what sports betting is all about.”