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Executives behind the four major sports teams in the state of Georgia are urging lawmakers in the state to legalize sports betting. The presidents of the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks, and Atlanta United FC have formed an organization to lobby legislators to legalize online and mobile sports betting.
The group, known as the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance, has authored a letter that has been passed along to lawmakers giving their blessing to legalized wagering on their professional sporting events.
“Georgia is the 12th largest state for illegal wagering,” the franchise presidents wrote in the letter delivered to Georgia lawmakers this week. “It is not going away. That is why we must ensure the industry is above-board and transparent.”
Atlanta Braves President and CEO Derek Schiller told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that sports betting has brought the four franchises together for a common purpose for the first time in their short history.
“We felt it was important that we formed this alliance so that we could advise the Legislature if they’re going to consider drafting legislation,” Schiller told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The coalition’s goal is “ensuring that this activity — that is happening already — gets regulated in the right way and for us, most importantly, that we ensure that the integrity of the sport is preserved.”
To get sports betting passed, lawmakers in Georgia have several hurdles to jump before legalization. A bill must receive two-thirds of the vote in the legislature before needing a majority approval from voters in a ballot proposal.
One of the biggest requests that sports leagues have made from lawmakers when debating on sports betting is the requirement of integrity fees that kick back a small percentage of all bets to the leagues that host the events.
But all states that have passed sports betting legalization to this point have denied the leagues’ request for an integrity fee. Seeing the failure of teams and leagues, the four franchises are not asking for a slice of the betting revenue.
Instead, Billy Linville, a lobbyist representing the four teams, tells the Atlanta newspaper the franchises believe that regulated legal sports betting will drive interest in their games, which will mean more revenue down the road for the teams.
“The question isn’t if Georgians are going to bet on sports,” Linville said. “It’s whether they’ll wager in an illegal market or bet in a fully regulated environment that protects consumers and integrity of the games.”
Early estimates believe that betting in Georgia could bring in over $50 million in tax revenue annually once legalization occurs.
The next step for lawmakers is to craft a bill that will meet the approval of Georgia voters. The state leans conservative and betting is frowned upon by religious and family groups.
Virginia Galloway, a lobbyist with the Georgia Faith and Freedom Coalition, said, “It’s sad that these great American pastimes want to bring in the predatory gambling business to take advantage of their fans…But now, for the sake of more revenue…hardworking Georgians will be on the hook for the havoc it wreaks, both socially and economically.”
With swift passage in the coming months, Georgia lawmakers could get the betting measure on a ballot in November 2020.
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