As Georgia Sports Betting Bill Waits, Committee Debates DFS Proposal

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Georgia sports betting

With Georgia sports betting prospects dwindling this session, a fantasy sports bill keeps a glimmer of hope.

The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee advanced House Bill 1329 Tuesday, but time is running short, as legislation must pass its chamber of origin by Thursday. The session runs until March 28.

A Georgia sports betting proposal advanced through the Senate earlier this month and is awaiting House action. An industry source suggests HB 1329 language could be added to the sports betting legislation, Senate Bill 386.

“It has real support, and it is truly up to the legislators to decide what they think is the best way to get DFS included, whether that’s via this bill or baked into sports betting,” the source said after the bill passed the committee Tuesday.

Fantasy discussion comes to Georgia

Rep. Ron Stephens is the legislation’s sponsor and told the committee Tuesday DFS takes place legally in Georgia as a game of skill. He said his proposal further defines, regulates and taxes the industry.

“That is essentially what the bill does,” Stephens said. “They are operating today. This will capture the revenues and regular what is going on and go into the HOPE Scholarship and pre-K funds.” 

He mentioned Georgia-based PrizePicks multiple times and said the proposal “champions local business.” Stephens also said 250,000 Georgians played DFS without consumer protections in 2023.

How does fantasy bill differ from Georgia sports betting? 

With a sports betting bill moving in the legislature, Rep. Becky Evans asked how the DFS products differ from sports betting.

Stephens said, “Sports betting is a game of chance, this is a game of skill, like checkers or chess.” PrizePicks representative Stuart Wilkinson said five components help separate DFS from sports betting:

DFS industry seeks to avoid scrutiny in Georgia

DFS operators face pushback from regulators across the US sports betting landscape regarding pick’em games. That includes recent orders to leave Kansas and Florida.

The Georgia proposal leaves room for the pick’em products operators like PrizePicks and Underdog offer, which are the subject of the regulatory decisions. Underdog pulled its pick’em product from the North Carolina market as it awaits a decision on an online sports betting license.

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

Georgia sports betting progress

While the Georgia Senate passed its sports betting bill, there is industry pessimism around the issue. Multiple industry sources told LSR sports betting will likely suffer a similar fate as previous years.

On Tuesday morning, an industry source asked LSR, “Why do we waste our time?” on Georgia. Another source recently told LSR it will take the Sports Betting Alliance to say it is comfortable pushing a constitutional amendment for lawmakers to pass the bill.

Along with legislative passage, a constitutional amendment would require voter approval in November. But with a ballot initiative likely for Missouri sports betting and possibly Alabama, industry expenses are rising this year.

“Here’s the problem, taking this to the ballot probably means $20 million from various stakeholders to get it passed,” the source said. “I think they’re concerned about the outlay of expenses this year on things where there is not a certain outcome.

“It’s risky and if it goes to the ballot and fails, that sets us back like five years in a state like Georgia.”