Why Georgia Sports Betting Bill Appears Headed For Familiar Fate

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Georgia sports betting

The rocky future of Georgia sports betting legislation could also affect the road ahead for a new daily fantasy sports bill in the Peach State.

Rep. Ron Stephens introduced House Bill 1329 Wednesday, aiming to regulate the DFS industry with language friendly to pick’em operators including home-state entry PrizePicks. The legislation comes as a Georgia sports betting bill passed in the Senate awaits House action, but industry sources worry the legislation’s odds of passage are dwindling.

“[Sports betting] could become a proxy fight,” an industry source said. “As a constitutional amendment becomes more and more likely and Dem support less and less likely, it seems like it will just end up in the same spot as always.”

The source said legislators would likely end up adding the DFS bill to the sports betting legislation. Additionally, they said a committee hearing on the DFS bill will likely provide clues to how lawmakers feel about the sports betting situation.

Georgia sports betting headed to dead end? 

In previous years, Georgia sports betting bills died amid Republicans and Democrats disagreeing over weightier issues. Sports betting needs bipartisan support, as there are lawmakers on both sides of the aisle against the issue.

Last week, the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus called for a reparations study commission. That was met with Republican opposition shortly after Democrats were irked by Republican House leadership, which essentially killed a Medicaid expansion.

“Similar to recent years, it’s looking like this might get held hostage,” a source said. “But maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

The Senate bill started with strong bipartisan support, but an industry source said that does not mean the same agreement is present in the House.

Georgia sports betting bill slowed to crawl

The Georgia Senate made quick work of Senate Bill 386, passing it 35-15 on February 1. The bill legalizes sports betting through the Georgia Lottery.

Some legislators hoped to circumvent the need for a constitutional amendment by running sports betting through the Lottery. Still, Sen. Bill Cowsert introduced proposed tying the legislation to a constitutional amendment. That amendment passed, 34-7.

A constitutional amendment requires two-thirds of a chamber to approve, so the increase in votes needed is likely causing some of the delay, one source said, but that party disagreements also could sideline the bill completely. 

Constitutional amendment moving

Following the passage of the amended SB 386, companion Senate Resolution 579 began its journey in the upper chamber. The legislation would allow Georgians to vote on a constitutional amendment to allow sports betting in November‘s election.

Industry sources expect SR 579 to traverse the Senate, similar to the enacting legislation. It passed a Senate committee Thursday.

“I’ve always thought the constitutional amendment would be a heavy lift. That said, this is the [Lieutenant Governor’s] priority, so I still think it comes out of the Senate,” one source said before acknowledging the House is a different ballgame.

No stranger to political bickering 

In 2021, the Georgia Senate sent a sports betting bill to the House. Democrats pulled their support of sports betting after Republican efforts to limit voter rights.

Last year, sports betting efforts fell apart when Democrats dropped out after Republicans passed legislation limiting healthcare treatments for transgender children.

Heading into this session, the presidential election had industry proponents worried Georgia swing state politics would doom sports betting.

What is in GA sports betting bill?

If Georgia lawmakers pass the sports betting bill, it would create 16 licenses for sportsbooks. The legislation ties eight licenses to professional sports organizations.

The Georgia Lottery receives one online skin, while the other seven licenses are open for a competitive bid process.

It creates a 20% tax rate on sports betting revenue.

Georgia DFS bill providing regulation

DFS providers in Georgia operate as a game of skill. As the DFS industry sees pick’em scrutiny across the US, a source said the Peach State’s bill aims to regulate the industry in an inclusive manner.

The bill leaves room for pick’em products like those of Underdog and Georgia-based PrizePicks. A PrizePicks representative asked for lawmakers to include DFS in the sports betting bill earlier this session.

“This is a bill looking to create parity between sports betting and fantasy,” the source said. “It is meant to be the most inclusive bill possible, except maybe not sweepstakes.”

What’s in the DFS bill?

HB 1329 sets up DFS regulation under the Georgia Lottery. It allows for contests that:

Tiered DFS situation in Georgia

The proposal splits DFS operators into two types: large operators and others. Georgia would tax DFS revenue at 20%.

Large organizations are defined as those with more than $5 million in gross receipts in the past 12 months. Those operators pay $100,000 in an application fee and $1 million for an annual license. Other organizations pay $5,000 for the annual license.