Georgia Sports Betting Bills Die as House Fails to Act

Georgia Sports Betting Bills Die as House Fails to Act
© USA Today

There will be no legal sports betting approved this year in Georgia. The state House of Representatives adjourned early Thursday without voting on a pair of Senate bills that would have begun the process to bring sports betting to the Peach State.

The legislature could consider sports betting again when it reconvenes in January 2022 and have the issue on the ballot in November next year.

A constitutional amendment to allow sports betting in Georgia was approved by the Senate earlier this month. Another bill passed by the Senate outlined how legal betting would have operated in the state. Versions of both bills had cleared the House rules committee only to be recommitted after the necessary support to pass them was never mustered.

The constitutional amendment passed the Senate 41-10, getting three more votes than the two-thirds necessary in that body.

The push to bring sports betting to Georgia has been backed by all of the major professional teams in the state. Support for sports betting had enjoyed broader bipartisan support in the House earlier in the session. But it eventually became a casualty of the bitter partisan divide over a new state voter ID law.

Support for sports betting in Georgia also eroded among some conversative Republicans after pro athletes criticized the Georgia voter law and MLB Players Association head Tony Clark said players were open to having Major League Baseball move the 2021 All-Star Game out of Truist Park north of Atlanta.

What’s Next For Sports Betting In Georgia?

Sports betting will now have to wait for the 2022 legislative session. If a constitutional amendment measure could get on ballot in November, betting could still conceivably begin as early as Jan. 1, 2023. The 2022 Election Day ballot will be crowded in Georgia, as the governor’s race, one U.S. Senate seat and all the U.S. House seats will also be up for grabs.

Under the proposal approved by the Senate, the process to create a sports betting infrastructure in Georgia — which would have included at least six sportsbooks — would have been underway prior to the actual vote on the gambling constitutional amendment.

There were differences between the overall gambling bill in the Senate and that version that stalled in the House. Chief among them was that the House did not allow gambling on any college sports. The Senate-approved bill prohibited gambling on collegiate events only featuring schools from Georgia.

The House limited sports betting to online only, while the Senate bill allowed for onsite betting kiosks at various venues.

The tax rate on the net proceeds from gambling for the state and how that revenue would be distributed also differed between the two bodies. Under the version of the bill under discussion in the House, 20% of those net revenues would go to the state, up from 16% under the Senate bill.

The rest of the differences center mainly on how the money would have been spent between HOPE Scholarships, pre-K education, need-based scholarships, rural broadband development, mental health services in underserved areas and money to attract major sporting events to the state. The percentages set aside for those concerns were locked into the constitutional amendment proposal in the House.

Overseen by Georgia Lottery

The Senate bill called for sports betting in Georgia to be regulated and managed by the Georgia Lottery Corp. Sportsbooks would have paid a non-refundable application fee and annual licensing fees, in addition to the tax on revenue. Only those 21 and over would be allowed to wager.

Proponents of legal sports betting in Georgia have continually stressed the reality of illegal and offshore gambling and have claimed more than 2 million people engage in the practice already in Georgia.

They have argued that sports betting exists in Georgia already and that the state is missing out on the potential revenue taxation could create.

The bills approved by the Senate were SB 142, which outlined how sports betting would operate in Georgia and SR 135, which allowed for a statewide referendum on sports betting in November 2022.