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The proposed Georgia sports betting tax rate might not even make it out of its first committee, according to one sponsor.
Sen. Burt Jones made it no secret that SB 403 is framed by successful legislation in Tennessee but that he doesn’t necessarily agree with every aspect.
One of those aspects is the 10% tax rate, which is generally seen as the fairest balance for the state and operators.
“That was a starting point in the legislation,” Jones said Tuesday at the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee hearing. “If it would appease the chair – and I agree with you – we can bop it up to 20% or 25%.”
Chairman Bill Cowsert asked why another form of gambling should be approved at 10% when it could be taking away from money spent on the lottery, which has about a 27% profit.
But Sen. David Lucas was quick to disagree with raising the rate, saying the lottery won’t take the risk. Lucas advocated using the tax revenue on eight rural Georgia hospitals that could be closed without funding.
“We need revenue,” he said. “Why not get some of the revenue that’s escaping us?”
All four of Atlanta’s professional sports teams had representation at Tuesday’s hearing. The teams are members of the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance, which calls for regulated sports betting.
Braves President Derek Schiller, Hawks CEO Steve Koonin and Falcons President Rich McKay said they support the bill to better fan engagement. McKay also represented Atlanta United, which shares the same owner as the Falcons.
Koonin mentioned that while the teams wouldn’t benefit directly from betting revenue, it would help viewership. Fans are 19 times more likely to watch a game they’ve bet on, he said.
McKay said he would have been against betting five years ago, the same time period when the NFL fought legal US sports betting. But engagement with fans completely changed and centers around mobile for fans in their 20s, 30s and 40s, he added.
Legalized US sports betting has brought third-party data miners to Falcons games in the past two years, McKay said.
“We’re in a position now in our stadium where we have people walking around the stadium game day looking for people that are pushing out results and pushing out data because people are betting on that,” he said. “That’s very uncomfortable for us and not something we were ever doing two years ago that we’re doing now. So if we get something that regulates it and makes it official league data that puts us at ease a little more.”
The Hawks have seven data specialists working every game, sending information to statisticians on high-speed internet lines to New Jersey to ensure accurate information, Koonin said.