The latest Georgia sports betting bill includes a tiered tax rate that would target sportsbooks’s most successful products.
On the second day of the legislative session Tuesday, the Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities Committee advanced SB 172. The committee chairman is Sen. Bill Cowsert, the author of the Georgia sports betting bill that was tabled by the chamber last year.
While the bill gets an early start, it will still be an uphill battle in Georgia for legalization this year. Multiple industry sources suggest divisive state politics will derail sports betting again, particularly in a presidential election year. The session runs through March.
What is in Georgia sports betting bill
The state would tax sports betting revenue at 20%, with “high-profit” bets including parlays, props, and live bets at 25%. The bill is believed to be the first in the United States to attempt taxing high-hold products at a higher rate.
Parlays are the highest-margin product for sportsbooks, and have helped operators improve their overall hold and hit profitability. The bill legalizes GA sports betting online and at remote terminals. It would also create a seven-member sports betting commission.
The commission could issue at least six online licenses. Professional sports teams in Georgia could place sports betting kiosks in their venues.
Big hurdle for new bill
SB 172 is an enabling bill that also requires a separate constitutional amendment. The need for a constitutional amendment is a sticking point for gambling proponents in Georgia, as some believe it is required and others do not.
Constitutional amendments require two-thirds votes of both the House and Senate. Then, it would need statewide voter approval.
“I don’t see anything to fear from a constitutional amendment,” Cowsert said during the meeting. “It’s the right thing to do. Let the people decide when you’re making a major policy change.”
The amendment bill has not been filed yet. Cowsert, a Republican, saw his constitutional amendment for gambling fall short last year, with 30 of 38 Senators voting in favor.
Other bills also in play
Multiple other bills have been or are expected to be filed this session. Last year, bills were introduced but failed to cross over between the chambers.
Some bills legalize just sports betting, while others are more comprehensive and include full casino gaming. Both Sen. Brandon Beach and Sen. Carden Summers plan to submit gambling bills.
The legislators against a constitutional amendment believe sports betting fits under the purview of the Georgia Lottery. The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Georgia professional sports teams support that route.
Will early start help Georgia sports betting?
While most industry sources suggest Georgia is likely to fall victim to partisan politics once again, at least one is bullish on the state.
“The clock just ran out last year,” the source said. “You definitely can see a path for a bipartisan agreement. There’s an interesting bipartisan coalition between those who are interested in funding Pre-K and folks who are very committed to, frankly, Republican primary voters who are interested in SEC football and betting on sports.”
As some Republicans oppose sports betting, it will likely need support from at least a few Democrats.