Georgia Sees Long-Awaited Progress as Committee Approves Sports Betting Bill 

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  • Georgia would not need to hold a statewide vote at the ballot to legalize
  • The bill would impose a 20% tax on sportsbooks’ gross gaming revenue
  • Seven licenses would be available for external operators via a public bidding process

Georgia sports betting has failed to get off the ground since sports wagering was legalized federally in 2018—however, there are promising signs early in the state’s 2024 legislative session.

A committee in the Peach State’s Senate approved SB 386, a pro-sports betting bill submitted by Sen. Clint Dixon (R-45). The bill will advance to the Senate Rules Committee and could reach the Senate floor by the end of the week if all goes well.

The rules committee will meet on Tuesday and could discuss the bill, though there is no guarantee that happens as the agenda has not been published.

Building much-needed momentum 

SB 386 was first presented to the committee last week with a 15% tax rate on legal sportsbooks’ gross gaming revenue—however, Dixon hiked the rate to 20% before he presented it to the committee on Tuesday.

Unlike previous attempts to get sports betting over the line, SB 386 does not require a Constitutional amendment for the state to legalize it. Instead, it would classify sports betting as a lottery game and turn control over market regulation to The Georgia Lottery Corporation.

That decision comes following the opinion of ex-Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice, Harold Melton, who wrote an opinion last year that legalizing sports betting does not require a statewide vote if it is grouped with the lottery.

All sports betting tax revenue would fund the state lottery’s HOPE foundation, which provides college scholarships and funds pre-K programs for low-income students and families.

16 Senators (including those from both major parties) sponsored the bill. That includes Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Gloria Butler (D-55) and Lt. Gov. Burt Jones (R).

If passed, the bill would legalize online sports betting and create up to 16 openings for interested licensees. Licenses would come with a $100,000 application fee and $1 million annual renewal rate.

Of the 16 available licenses, five would be reserved for the professional sports teams in Georgia (Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Dream, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks, and Atlanta United FC), one for Atlanta Motor Speedway, one for Augusta National Golf Course (home of the Masters), one for the Georgia Lottery Corporation, and one for the PGA Tour. The seven leftover licenses would be granted to interested operators through a public bidding process.

Under the framework of the bill, Georgians could bet on in-state colleges and universities, including the Georgia Bulldogs and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Betting on the Special Olympics would be prohibited. 

Opinions still split 

Lt. Gov. Jones said during a press conference last Wednesday that it was time for Georgia to accept sports betting. 

Nick Fernandez, Director of Government Affairs at Metro Atlanta Chamber, said that the HOPE foundation is running dry but would receive an estimated $100 million annually with the legalization of sports betting.

However, support for the bill and sports betting is not unanimous. Mike Griffin, a public affairs representative for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, condemned legal sports betting in Georgia. 

“Gambling is basically legalized fraud,” said Griffin. “You can’t win. The industry can’t lose.” 

While the HOPE foundation might reasonably expect an extra nine figures in funding should the bill pass, Stuart Wilkinson said on behalf of PrizePicks that the state could expect another $35 million if it legalizes daily fantasy sports.

While the entire northeast United States down to North Carolina and most of the midwest already legalized sports betting, Georgia is one of several states that has not. South Carolina and Alabama, Georgia’s neighbors, are also yet to pass legislation and are not currently considering any measures.

Georgia made several attempts to legalize sports betting, horse racing, and casinos over the last couple of years but ultimately failed. Even if SB 386 gets out of the Senate, it faces a tougher road to garnering the necessary support in the House.