Georgia House Advances Sports Betting One Step Closer to Goal Line

Georgia House Advances Sports Betting

  • Georgia’s next goal will be aligning key issues for a voter referendum November 2022
  • It seems likely that Georgia will be an “online-only” sports wagering state like Tennessee
  • Support is also building for horse racing coming to the state packed into bills for voters

Count Georgia among the approximate dozen new states with legalized sports wagering on the horizon for the near future.

Their odds increased as Georgia’s House of Representatives Economic Development & Tourism Committee voted 14-6 on Tuesday in favor of a constitutional amendment asking voters in the state whether to legalize sports betting.

As a sequential component, the state Senate passed the measure earlier this month by a margin of 41-10, three votes more than the two-thirds majority needed for constitutional amendments.

Senate Bill 142 and Senate Resolution 135 are proposals that would regulate wagering on sporting events in Georgia. They now proceed to the House Rule Committee next for a vote. These bills will work in unison to provide different purposes and rules for the state to legislate sports wagering.

One of the bills allows for a vote on a Constitutional amendment to permit gambling in Georgia. The other outlines the process and details of how sports betting would operate in the state.

Should both of these bills be approved by the House before the legislature adjourns on April 2, the final step toward legalized sports betting in Georgia will be a statewide referendum in November 2022. With that eventually happening, sports wagering in Georgia could begin approximately January 2023.

Many Hurdles to Cross

Most noticeable on one of the bills is clearly stating that sports wagering in Georgia would be conducted “online-only” similar to neighbor state Tennessee with no retail onsite locations to wager. Georgia voters would need to vote upon that requirement in November 2022.

There are also differences between the overall gambling bill in the Senate and the version that cleared the House Committee for Economic Development & Tourism. One is that the House version did not allow gambling on any college sports. The Senate-approved bill only prohibits wagering on college events that involve universities from Georgia.

The tax rate on the net proceeds from sports wagering for Georgia and how that revenue would be distributed also differ. Under the current version of the House bill, 20% of the net revenue would go to the state. That is an increase from 16% under the Senate bill.

The balance of differences to be discussed involved the distribution of funds and how the money raised would be spent. Many areas and needs have put forth including HOPE Scholarships, pre-K education, rural broadband development, mental health services for underserved areas, and money to attract major sports events. Percentages set aside for those causes are locked into Georgia constitutional amendment proposal in the House.

Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, the House committee’s chairman, said following Tuesday’s vote, If we make it legal, we’ll get the revenue out of it.

Horse Racing in the Mix

As a separate but aligning topic under legislating gambling and new revenue opportunity for the state, the issue of bringing horse racing to Georgia has entered into the mix.

Legislation that could allow for sports betting in Georgia has advanced further this year than ever before, and it maintains a reasonable chance of passing before the 2021 session expires in the coming weeks.

Many believe it does not make sense is to exclude horse racing from current legislation that has passed the State Senate by an overwhelming margin and now awaits action in the State House.

If we can bet on the Hawks or Falcons, why not horses?” argued Dean Reeves and Carl Bouckaert of the Georgia Horse Racing Association in pushing for a 60-day racing season. “Georgia can create a billion-dollar industry with no state support, tax credits, state subsidies or other economic development incentives.

Like sports wagering, proponents of horse racing have stressed that people in the state have bet on horses illegally for decades with bookmakers and more recently through offshore wagering sources. Those wagers taxed could benefit all people in Georgia.

People lobbying support for the legislation say it is a “win-win” creation. The industry isn’t asking for state investment for a racetrack and the upside goes far beyond a new Georgia entertainment destination and additional tax revenues. Georgia can create a billion-dollar industry with no state support, tax credits, state subsidies, or any other economic development incentives.

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Larry Gibbs

Expert on Sports Betting Industry

Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.

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