Lawmaker Expects Georgia Sports Betting Bill To Pass House Without Constitutional Amendment

Written By Matthew Kredell on February 17, 2023
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The Georgia House will pass sports betting legislation within two weeks, a Georgia lawmaker tells PlayUSA.

Rep. Ron Stephens, who has championed sports betting efforts in the Georgia legislature for several years, is confident that the Georgia House will soon pass betting legislation for the first time.

“We’ll get it through the House,” Stephens said. “There’s bipartisan support in the House to do sports betting through the lottery without a constitutional amendment.”

Stephens is a co-sponsor of HB 380, which took its first step toward passage Thursday. It was heard in the House Higher Education Committee.

Rep. Marcus Wiedower, primary sponsor of the bill, agreed with Stephens about its prospects.

“It seems to have that kind of momentum,” Wiedower told PlayUSA.

House hearing on Georgia sports betting bill

The House Higher Education Committee considered an amended version of the Georgia Lottery Game of Sports Betting Act. Wiedower explained that the newest iteration of HB 380 eliminates the retail component.

Similar to neighboring Tennessee, Georgia would limit sports betting to online. It would allow for 16 online sports betting licenses:

  • Atlanta Braves
  • Atlanta Falcons
  • Augusta National
  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Atlanta United
  • PGA Tour
  • Atlanta Dream
  • Georgia Lottery Corporation
  • Seven untethered for online sportsbook operators.

Wiedower also hinted that he might eliminate tax deductions for promotional credits. The bill includes a 15% tax rate.

Higher Education will continue hearing HB 380 on Tuesday. March 6 is the crossover deadline for Georgia legislation. Wiedower told PlayUSA that he expected the House to pass the bill the week after next.

Senate hearing focuses on constitutional amendment

At a Senate committee hearing the same day, lawmakers considered legislation requiring a constitutional amendment.

The Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee considered SB 172 and SR 140. Committee chair Sen. Bill Cowsert introduced both pieces of legislation.

Cowsert reiterated his position that legalizing Georgia sports betting requires a constitutional amendment.

“It’s my opinion the only way to do that is with a constitutional amendment because we need to change the constitution to allow this new form of gambling. There may be some legal technicalities, some sneaky ways to get around that by calling this a lottery game and letting it be under the scope of the lottery … but to me that is extremely deceptive to our citizenry.”

Key details of SB 172 include:

  • At least six untethered online sports betting licenses costing $1 million annually.
  • A Georgia Lottery Corporation sports betting app.
  • Retail sports betting kiosks through the lottery.
  • A tiered tax rate of 25% on parlay bets, prop bets and live bets, then 20% on regular wagers.

The committee plans to take up sports betting again next Thursday.

Constitutionality clash brewing on Georgia sports betting

Back in 2021, the Georgia Senate passed a sports betting implementation bill along with a resolution to put a constitutional amendment in front of voters. But the House never brought them to a floor vote.

Now it appears the Georgia House is on the way to passing legislation. But a Senate split over the need for a constitutional amendment could still derail Georgia sports betting.

A previous Senate sports betting bill SB 57 did not require a constitutional amendment. However, many of the co-sponsors of SB 57 signed up for Cowsert’s SR 140.

The Georgia constitution prohibits casino gambling, parimutuel betting and privately operated lotteries. So House lawmakers believe sports betting conducted under the lottery isn’t prohibited.

Higher Education Committee chair Rep. Chuck Martin explained:

“This is another lottery game with the funds going to the same place the rest of the lottery funds go. … I don’t think there’s a black-letter solution to this. I think we could probably line up a room full of people. Half would tell us it’s OK constitutionally, the other half would tell us it’s not.”

Bill author Wiedower agreed:

“I think, like the chairman said, you could line up a number of people that would have conflicting concepts. I obviously would not be bringing this if I did not believe it could be done in this matter.”

Constitutional amendment bills must pass by a two-thirds vote in each chamber and get voter approval in the next general election.

Despite a willingness to legalize in each chamber, it’s unclear whether the legislature can reach an agreement on how to do Georgia sports betting this year. The Georgia legislative session runs through March 30.

“It’s a toss-up,” Stephens said when asked if the House and Senate could reach an agreement on sports betting.

Photo by PlayUSA
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew's reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. After graduating from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and

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