A group of 10 Georgia Senators filed a bill creating a wide-open market for retail and online sports betting without a constitutional amendment.
Senate Bill 57 would allow up to 18 online sports betting licenses for professional sports teams and untethered operators plus sports betting kiosks at bars, restaurants and lottery retailers.
By having the Georgia Lottery Corporation oversee the activity, the Senators seek to authorize Georgia sports betting without a constitutional amendment.
If Georgia can do sports betting without a constitutional amendment, it makes passage easier. Legislators would only need a majority vote rather than a two-thirds vote.
Also, the issue wouldn’t need approval from Georgia voters in November 2024. If passed by both chambers and signed by the governor, the bill could go into effect this year.
What’s in the Georgia sports betting bill
Sen. Billy Hickman serves as primary sponsor of SB57 but another nine co-sponsors are on the initial filing. Many of the details of the bill are similar to language pushed by Rep. Ron Stephens last session.
Since it doesn’t have brick-and-mortar casinos, Georgia centers sports betting licensing around professional sports. Here are the key details of the Georgia Sports Betting Integrity Act:
- Allows up to 18 online sports betting licenses, half for sports entities and half free-floating.
- Online sports betting licensees pay $1 million annually along with a nonrefundable $100,000 application fee.
- Allows bars, restaurants and lottery retailers to offer a maximum of two sports betting kiosks.
- Between five and 10 retail sports betting distributors pay $100,000 annually to offer the self-service or clerk-operator betting kiosks.
- Taxes both retail and online sports betting at a 20% rate.
- Revenue would go to fund the HOPE Scholarship and Pre-K programs.
- Requires the use of official league data for in-play wagers.
- Creates the Georgia Sports Betting Commission and the Georgia Gaming Corporation under it to regulate the activity.
- Allows wagering on esports, the Olympics and other sporting events sanctioned by national or international organizations.
What Georgia pro sports entities can participate
Here are the nine Georgia professional sports entities that may apply for online sports betting licenses. Each may only have one online skin.
- Atlanta Braves
- Atlanta Falcons
- Augusta National
- PGA Tour
- Atlanta Hawks
- Atlanta Dream
- Michelin Raceway Atlanta
- Atlanta Motor Speedway
- Atlanta United
Whether a constitutional amendment is necessary
The Georgia State Constitution prohibits casino gambling and pari-mutuel betting. It’s up to interpretation whether casino gambling includes sports betting.
Since the state-sanctioned lottery is legal, some lawmakers feel more comfortable doing sports betting without a constitutional amendment if it falls under the Georgia Lottery.
Offering sports betting without a constitutional amendment goes against the Senate’s previous position.
In 2021, the Senate passed a sports betting implementation bill along with a constitutional amendment. Sen. Bill Cowsert, who chairs the Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities, was adamant about sports betting requiring a constitutional amendment.
Cowsert recently told PlayUSA:
“We felt that it had to be a constitutional amendment so it needed a two-thirds vote and we were able to pass it.”
There are also efforts in Georgia to put constitutional amendments in front of voters to remove the prohibitions on pari-mutuel wagering and casinos, which complicate matters.
Stephens has said he will file a House bill for Georgia sports betting. He previously argued to do sports betting without a constitutional amendment in 2021 before later accepting that a constitutional amendment was necessary given the Senate position.
Stephens told PlayUSA that he has yet to decide whether to include a constitutional amendment in the House push this year.
“I’m not sure yet,” Stephens said. “We have over 40 new members in the House and I’m checking the pulse.”