Posted on: January 30, 2024, 03:01h.
Last updated on: January 30, 2024, 03:01h.
A state Senate Committee overwhelmingly approved legislation to legalize sports betting in Georgia. Senate Bill 386 passed the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee with an 8–2 vote on Tuesday.
It’s the second sports gambling bill filed in the chamber this month. The first measure, SB 172, advanced earlier this month. The difference is that SB 386 sponsored by Sen. Clint Dixon (R-Buford) wouldn’t require a voter referendum to pass a constitutional amendment to allow sports betting.
Voters amended the constitution to allow a lottery in 1992.
“There is no constitutional amendment required because all the funds are going to the lottery to fund pre-K and HOPE,” said Dixon.
HOPE Scholarships are for students who achieve at least a “B” average in high school.
We believe this bill has brought a win for Georgia.” Said Nick Fernandez of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. The Chamber supports the plan along with Atlanta’s pro sports teams.
While the bill does have some bipartisan support, lawmakers stalled gaming expansion over constitutional amendment questions in 2023.
The Senate Rules Committee must now decide whether to put the legislation before the full Senate.
Constitutional Requirement Debate Heats Up
Opponents warn SB 386 could be declared unconstitutional, saying voters in 1992 likely never believed they were authorizing sports betting when they approved the lottery.
“I don’t believe this end-around is going to work,” said Mike Griffin, a lobbyist for Georgia’s Southern Baptist churches.
Supporters believe sports betting would bring economic benefits while opponents dismiss those claims over addiction concerns and oversized losses of personal money.
“The disastrous effects of problem gambling are well known and well documented,” said Mack Parnell, Executive Director of the Georgia Faith and Freedom Coalition.
Louisiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky were the first three states in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) to legalize sports gambling.
What’s in the Bill
The bill called the “Georgia Lottery Game of Sports Betting Act,” is limited to online wagering only. The bill would tax gamblers’ winnings at 20%.
As many as 16 licenses would be made available and Georgia’s professional sports teams, including the Atlanta Braves, Falcons, Hawks, Dream, and Atlanta FC would all hold rights to partner with operators. The PGA Tour, Augusta National Golf Course, and Atlanta Motor Speedway would also be eligible.
The state lottery would be allowed to hold a license and would be allowed to award seven sports betting licenses to operators through a public procurement process.
Georgia sports betting would be open to adults 21 and older.
The bill requires wagering to begin in the state no later than Jan. 31, 2025.