With Clock Ticking, Georgia Sports Betting Conversation Restarts

Written By

Updated on

Georgia sports betting

The Georgia sports betting discussion was renewed Tuesday, but work remains for the committee before a House vote.

The House Higher Education Committee discussed Senate Bill 386 Tuesday, but did not act on the bill. The agenda also did not include the necessary Senate Resolution 579, which puts Georgia sports betting on the November ballot since the enacting legislation is tied to a constitutional amendment.

Rep. Chuck Martin, the committee chair, said the SB 386 and SR 579 could be on the agenda for a meeting Wednesday, but there will be no votes. The Georgia legislative session runs until March 28.

“We have a lot of work to do on this measure,” Martin said at the end of Tuesday’s meeting.

House discussion on Georgia sports betting

Bill sponsor Sen. Clint Dixon carried the bill into the House committee. Martin said SB 386 and SR 579 would need to be worked on because of differences in tax appropriation language.

Dixon fielded multiple questions about how the bill differs from last year’s House bill that passed the chamber, as well as problem gambling issues and how the funds would help Georgia education. There were also several lawmakers expressing concern about collegiate wagering, which is allowed in the bill.

Dixon said he would be open to adding language friendly to daily fantasy sports operators like Georgia-based PrizePicks. A House DFS bill failed to cross over to the Senate last month.

Georgia sports betting hopes are slim

Industry sources are sour on Georgia’s chances to pass sports betting this year. That comes as sports betting was stripped in a gambling package in neighboring Alabama.

One source believes passage in Georgia is dependent on stakeholders pushing the constitutional amendment. That, however, would take a large outlay of cash, a tough sell with another expensive ballot initiative in Missouri.

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

Familiar political issues loom in Georgia

In past sports betting legalization attempts, bills died as republicans and democrats disagreed on more significant issues. Sports betting requires bipartisan support because of opponents on both sides of the aisle. 

This year, SB 386 began with strong bipartisan support. But similar to recent years, partisan politics might create a roadblock for sports betting to end this session.

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

Strong Senate start in Georgia

SB 386 started quickly in the Senate, passing the chamber 35-15 on February 1

Sen. Bill Cowsert added an amendment tying the issue to a constitutional amendment despite some lawmakers believing the issue could be legalized through the Georgia Lottery on its own. That amendment passed 34-7.

Lawmakers then introduced SR 579, which traversed the Senate and now awaits House action. 

Georgia sports betting details

The Georgia sports betting proposal would create 16 licenses, with eight of them tied to professional sports organizations. 

The Georgia Lottery would also receive an online skin, while the other seven would be open for competitive bids.

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