Sports betting certainly seems to be a priority in the Georgia Senate. A Senate committee wasted no time advancing another sports betting bill Tuesday.
The Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee voted 8-2 to pass on SB 386, a bill to operate sports betting under the Georgia Lottery without requiring a ballot referendum to amend the state constitution.
Rep. Clint Dixon introduced the bill on Thursday with backing from sports betting operators and Atlanta sports teams.
“There is no constitutional amendment required because all of the funds are going to the lottery to fund Pre-K and HOPE,” Dixon said.
Sen. Brandon Beach, chair of the committee, was one of 11 bipartisan co-sponsors of the legislation. He quickly moved the bill through the committee after 15 minutes of discussion.
An industry source tells PlayUSA that SB 386 could get a floor vote in the Senate on Thursday.
Tax rate increased in Georgia sports betting bill
The committee adopted an amendment from bill co-sponsor Sen. Derek Mallow, making three changes to the Georgia sports betting bill:
- Increasing the tax rate from 15% to 20%.
- Adding language encouraging participation by minority-led companies.
- Excluding wagers on the Special Olympics.
Details already in the bill include:
- Limits sports betting to online only with no physical presence.
- Creates the potential for 16 sports betting apps, seven standalone licenses for online sports betting operators that would pay a $100,000 initial application fee and an annual renewal fee of $1 million.
- Eight licenses are tethered to the following Georgia professional sports entities: Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Dream (WNBA), Atlanta United FC, Augusta National, PGA Tour and NASCAR. Each sports entity gets one sports wagering skin.
- The Georgia Lottery Corp. also would have the opportunity to offer its own sports wagering app.
- Prohibits the use of credit cards to fund online sports betting accounts.
Religious groups testify in opposition
Mark Parnell of the Georgia Faith and Freedom Coalition and Mike Griffin of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board testified in opposition to the bill.
“I’ve talked with leadership in the House, Senate, the governor,” Griffin said. “I’ve talked with everybody and said, look, we’re not trying to just take a moral high horse on you guys. We also want to just give you the data and you can put it on a scale and you can choose for yourself, are the benefits better than the detriments?”
Griffin added that he did not believe it is legal to do sports betting without a constitutional amendment.
“I do not believe this end-around is going to work,” Griffin said. “I don’t think people believed they were legalizing sports betting when they voted for the lottery in 1993.”
Chamber of Commerce provides support
Nick Fernandez of the Metro Atlanta Chamber provided the only testimony supporting the legislation.
Fernandez said the chamber believed SB 386 would be a win for Georgia through supporting sports entities and providing revenue for education.
“By investing in the teams here and the infrastructure and the venues that have jobs here, economic impact, we believe this provides an opportunity for Georgia to get a win,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez also pointed to pieces of legislation introduced this session looking for additional ways to support early childhood education. He believes sports betting revenue, projected to be over $100 million a year, could help.
“We are looking forward to the potential opportunity for these revenues to be put toward that and make a positive impact, whether it’s slots, capital outlay projects or being able to add Pre-K teachers to the K-12 system and bring their salaries up on par with K-12 teachers.”
What’s next for Georgia sports betting legislation
This is the second sports betting bill advanced by a Georgia committee in the first month of the legislative session.
On the second day of the legislative session, Sen. Bill Cowsert moved his SB 172, which carried over from last session, through the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee that he chairs. Cowsert’s legislation requires voter approval on a constitutional amendment.
We could find out this week if the Georgia Senate is ready to take a stance on doing sports betting through the lottery without a constitutional amendment.
The Senate previously passed Cowsert’s sports betting bill with a constitutional amendment in 2021. The Georgia House has never passed a sports betting bill. Georgia’s legislative session ends March 28.