A new Georgia sports betting bill could be a sign that key forces are aligning.
Republican Sen. Clint Dixon introduced new Georgia sports betting legislation, SB 386, Wednesday, with key co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle. Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler, the chamber’s top-ranking Democrat, is a co-sponsor.
Heading into the year, one industry source said, “The stars need to align perfectly for Georgia to pass in 2024.” And the bipartisan support is crucial as the political divide has killed the issue over the past few years.
Partisan politics remain a key concern for industry stakeholders moving through the Georgia legislative session.
New Georgia sports betting proposal
Dixon’s legislation puts sports betting under the purview of the Georgia Lottery. While some Georgia sports betting proponents believe the issue requires a constitutional amendment, this proposal needs a simple legislative majority and Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature.
It creates up to 16 sports betting licenses, including for sports organizations in the state and the Georgia Lottery. There would also be seven standalone licenses.
The proposal also establishes a 15% tax on sports betting revenue. Supporters estimate the tax could generate up to $100 million annually, which would go to the HOPE College Scholarship and pre-kindergarten and needs-based student programs.
Other critical support in Georgia
There are 12 sponsors, with multiple Senators representing both parties. Sen. Bo Hatchett is a co-sponsor and has close ties to Kemp, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The AJC also reported Lt. Gov. Burt Jones is also a supporter of the proposal. Jones reportedly was behind a backdoor sports betting effort near the end of the 2023 session.
The Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Atlanta professional sports teams also support the legislation.
Bridging the aisle in Georgia
Last year, sports betting legislation in the Senate and House failed to cross over to the other chamber before the deadline. Later in the session, Jones influenced a Senate committee to insert sports betting language into an unrelated soap box derby bill, which ultimately did not receive a Senate vote.
Because of gambling opposition within both parties, bipartisan support is needed to ensure needed votes. Last year, Democratic sports betting support fell off after the Republican majority passed a bill limiting healthcare treatments for transgender children.
Other divisive legislative issues, like voter rights, have also derailed sports betting in Georgia. Industry sources fear a heated presidential election could doom the issue this year, but optimism existed heading into the session.
“The clock just ran out last year,” one 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.”
Other active GA sports betting bill
Senate Bill 172, a bill requiring a constitutional amendment, remains active.
It would create six online licenses.
That bill carries a tiered tax rate, with regular bets at 20% and “high profit” bets at 25%. Those bets include parlays, props and live bets.