Two Sports Betting Bills Advance in Georgia Legislature

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Georgia has another month to get a sports betting bill in some form to Gov. Brian Kemp. Right now, two bills are taking the lead after being voted out of committee Monday.

But they aren’t taking the same path to legalization.

One of the two bills is House Bill 380, which would legalize online sports betting only, and only by statute. The proposal would authorize up to 16 mobile apps regulated by the Georgia Lottery. It was approved on a 16-4 vote by the House Higher Education Committee.

The other bill is Senate Resolution 140, approved Monday by the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee. SR 140 proposes legalization by constitutional amendment – a process that would allow voters to decide whether to legalize sports betting in Georgia.

The earliest that voters would get a chance to approve the amendment is next year during the 2024 general election.

The last day of the 40-day regular session of the 2023 Georgia General Assembly is scheduled for March 30. That doesn’t give lawmakers much time to decide if they should handle legalization by themselves or rely on the constitution, as some advise.

The Long Road to Passage for Georgia Sports Betting

Both proposals that have made it out of committee so far this session are part of a succession of attempts to legalize sports betting in the Peach State.

Sports betting bills are making their way through the Georgia legislature (photo by Nick Krittawat P)

In 2021, the Georgia Senate passed a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize online sports betting that would have put the question before voters in 2022. That attempt died in a House committee last year.

The chain of events drew disappointment from House Economic Development and Tourism Chairman Ron Stephens, according to a comment reported in the June 23, 2022 Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Stephens, a Savannah Republican, told the newspaper he will continue supporting attempts to legalize sports betting until it passes.

“The silly thing of it all is people are going to do it anyway. For me it’s a matter of, No. 1, regulating it, which is a big deal, and taxing it and getting the revenue,” Stephens said. “We’re going to try again.”

HB 380 Legalizes Sports Betting in Georgia in Time for 2024 Super Bowl

HB 380 is sponsored by State Rep. Marcus Wiedower, R-Watkinsville. Supporters of the bill expect it to generate at least $100 million in the first year of legal sports betting alone through a 25 percent tax on adjusted gross revenue from online sportsbooks.

That money would go through the Georgia Lottery to fund state education programs.

Online betting would be allowed on professional and college sports, auto racing, esports, the Olympics, and other events authorized by the lottery, potentially in time for the 2024 Super Bowl.

SR 140 Puts Question to Voters

The constitutional amendment proposed in SR 140 would allow Georgia voters to approve legal online and retail sports betting. State lawmakers would be responsible for creating a legislative framework that authorizes sports betting, with voter approval.

Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, is the sponsor of SR 140. Cowsert is also sponsoring a separate bill (SB 172) in the current session that sets out how online sports betting would operate if approved by voters next year. That so-called “enabling” legislation would take effect on Jan. 1, 2025.

Under SB 172, sports betting in the state would be regulated by a newly created Georgia Sports Betting Commission, with sports betting taxed at 25 percent of adjusted gross revenue on parlays, prop bets, and live bets. All other sports bets would be taxed at 20 percent.

Next Steps for Georgia

Two other sports betting bills are also pending in the Georgia legislature this month, but neither has made much headway. One is another proposed constitutional amendment (HR 210) for sports betting, pari-mutuel horse race betting, and casino gambling pending in the House. The other, SB 57, is pending in the Senate.

Pro sports leagues and franchises, as well as sportsbook operators, seem to prefer HB 380 to the other proposals. At a Feb. 21 hearing on HB 380, NFL lobbyist Ronnie Chance made that much clear.

“On behalf of the NFL, we support this legislation,” he said. And the sportsbooks backed him up.

DraftKings Government Affairs Counsel John Mohrmann testified in favor of HB 380 on Feb. 21 on behalf of the Sports Betting Alliance comprised of DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and Fanatics sportsbooks.

“This bill in its current form represents a compromise between many stakeholders, not the least of which is this very committee and the other members of the Georgia General Assembly,” Mohrmann said.

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Legislative Writer
Based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region, Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, Hanchett has been known to watch UK. basketball from time to time.

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