Georgia Sports Betting Bills Running Low On Time

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Georgia sports betting

A House committee hearing Monday on Georgia sports betting showed there is lots of work left in the Peach State with time running out.

The Georgia House Higher Education Committee discussed Senate Resolution 579. The Georgia sports betting legislation would amend the state constitution and if passed by legislators by a required two-thirds majority, voters would have a say on the issue in November.

“When you have this major of a policy shift, the public should be allowed to vote on it,” Sen. Bill Cowsert told the committee. 

The committee took no votes on the issue Monday. The Georgia legislative session runs until March 28.

Georgia sports betting bill needs tweaking

When the Senate passed Sen. Clint Dixon’s SB 386 on Feb. 1, Cowsert amended the legislation to tie it to a constitutional amendment. Cowsert believes the amendment is needed because there is no legal language allowing games under the Georgia Lottery

Dixon’s bill sets up the framework for sports betting and initially legalized it under the Georgia Lottery. Cowsert’s Senate resolution sets up a Georgia Gaming Commission.

“Things are a little out of sync right now,” Cowsert said, adding the enacting bill will need to be amended to align it with the constitutional amendment.

The Higher Education Committee discussed Dixon’s bill last week but did not act on it. 

GA sports betting financial questions

Cowsert’s constitutional amendment also allows the Georgia Lottery to participate in sports betting. It also appropriates sports betting tax revenue: 

Committee chair Rep. Chuck Martin does not want to send money to the Sports Promotion Fund and hopes to allocate more funds to problem gambling services. Rep. Imani Barnes asked Cowsert would be amendable to use some funds for school lunches. 

Dixon’s bill carries a 20% tax rate, but on Monday, Rep. Samuel Park suggested a 25% tax rate. Cowsert told the legislators he is “flexible,” as the issue needs support from both sides of the aisle because of opposition within each party.

Dixon’s sports betting framework

The enacting bill would create 16 licenses in Georgia, including eight of them tied to professional sports organizations. 

Along with a license for the Georgia Lottery, seven licenses would be open to competitive bids. 

Most of the changes needed on Dixon’s bill would be in the tax appropriation language that Cowsert’s defines. 

Clogged pathway in Georgia

In previous years, Georgia sports betting legalization attempts have fallen short as partisan politics created larger divides in Georgia. 

Sources tell LSR that a similar roadblock could stop sports betting this year

The ballot question also poses a problem, with a source telling LSR the sports betting industry could be hesitant about the expense of a ballot initiative, especially with one already ongoing in Missouri. The source said a ballot failure could set Georgia sports betting “back five years.”