Georgia sports betting hijacked a soapbox car Thursday and pushed out the driver.
In the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee, Chairman Sen. Brandon Beach and Sen. Derek Mallow led an effort to substitute Georgia sports betting language into a House bill meant to promote a soap box derby.
This revives Georgia sports betting for the session under HB 237 and converts it to the Georgia Lottery Game of Sports Betting Act. It provides one final attempt for Georgia to legalize sports betting this year without requiring a constitutional amendment.
What is dead may never die
It appeared Georgia sports betting efforts died last week when two Senate efforts and one House effort failed to advance before the deadline for bills to cross over from one chamber to another.
The Senate even voted down two sports betting bills, one from Beach. But SB 57 included the unpopular fixed betting on horse races.
Details of new Georgia sports betting effort
Committee sub LC365573-S does not include the horse betting from SB 57. In fact, it’s closer to HB 380 than Beach’s prior bill. Georgia sports teams and national sportsbook operators supported HB 380. Now they support this legislation.
- No more than 16 online sports betting licenses, eight tethered to Georgia sports organizations, one through the Georgia Lottery Corporation and seven untethered.
- No retail sports betting component.
- Sports organizations pay $1 million annually for a license with a $100,00 application fee. Untethered operators and an operator partnered with the Georgia Lottery Corporation pay $750,000 annually with a $100,000 application fee.
- Each sports betting licensee can only offer one mobile sports betting app.
- Tax rate of 22%.
- The Georgia Lottery Corporation also serves as regulator.
- Requires the use of official league data on in game wagers.
- No constitutional amendment attached.
Controversy surrounding attachment to Soap Box Derby
Rep. Leesa Hagan opened discussion of HB 237 with an earnest pitch about how the bill designated the Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby as the official soap box derby of the State of Georgia.
“With all the serious issues that we talk about that young people are facing these days, whether it’s gang activity, drug use, mental health issues … I feel like promoting a program that encourages them to put their phones down, go outside, work with a mentor or family member, learn about fair and honest competition … is something that has a positive impact on their lives.”
Although the committee sub was to keep the soap box derby language and add sports betting, Hagan requested her original language be removed.
“I don’t want my soapbox derby to be associated with sports betting and I would request that you would strip my language from this amendment,” Hagan said.
This was the first bill introduced by the new Georgia lawmaker. It passed the House unanimously, 168-0.
Vice Chairman Sen. Mike Dugan walked out of the room before the 8-1 committee vote. He told his colleagues they would regret using this bill for sports betting.
“Whoever came up with this idea just set sports betting back five years. When you hijack a soap box derby and put sports betting on the back of it, every person that was on the fence in the state of Georgia has just now picked a side of the fence. I can’t support this. … You all can vote this out of committee. It will not pass on the floor, and I think everybody in here knows it won’t pass on the floor. And the damage you have just done to the sports betting industry while trying this is unfathomable to me.”
What’s next for Georgia sports betting
Beach said he has support from Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, the leader of the Senate. That gives Georgia sports betting hope on the Senate floor.
“I also want to thank the lieutenant governor for his willingness and his leadership to allow this to come forward,” Beach said. “The lieutenant governor and I came in together in the Senate and he’s been a strong advocate for sports betting for a long time.”
If HB 237 passes the Senate, it would go back to the House to concur with the changes. House Speaker Jon Burns had said sports betting could be revived on to another bill.
Final passage still seems like a longshot.
The House had the opportunity to pass HB 380 before the crossover deadline and never called it for a vote. Now the substitution into a soap box derby bill adds more controversy.
The Georgia legislative session adjourns March 29.