The state Senate formally passed two pieces of Georgia sports betting legislation Friday, but it doesn’t sound like the House is expected to agree.
The Senate first approved SR 135 by a 41-10 vote. The referendum would leave whether sports betting is legalized up to Georgia’s voters in next year’s election.
Both bills now head to the House, where sports betting legislation is one of a few bills held up by a disagreement between Democrats and Republicans. Some Democrats in the House will not support Republican-sponsored bills over a Republican movement to end certain voting rights.
Georgia sports betting conference expected
Sen. Jeff Mullis, who sponsored both pieces of sports betting legislation in the Senate, expects more work on the bills. He was asked a few times about potential changes and made it clear there will be opportunities later.
“The conference committee that will probably be found from this issue will have representation from all sides in this chamber,” Mullis said. “So that’s where the changes may be made, that you will have a hand in it by everyone being represented in the conference committee properly.”
One of those changes will be the tax rate on sports betting revenue, Mullis said. SB 142 was introduced with a 10% tax rate, but that’s already increased to 16%. Mullis is most likely prepared to give up ground on that since the House’s current proposed tax rate is 20% in HB 86.
Is a referendum necessary?
It is not totally clear whether a constitutional amendment is required to legalize Georgia sports betting or not.
Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee Chairman Bill Cowsert cosponsored SR 135. He wasn’t convinced after hearing testimony that sports betting could be legalized as a lottery game without a legal battle.
Cowsert said he further received advice from the Georgia legislature that the amendment is needed.
“We had the legislative counsel’s office give us an opinion: does sports betting require a constitutional amendment? And our legislative counsel’s office says yes, it does,” Coswert said.