Should Sports Betting in Georgia Become Legalized?

SportsbookThanks to an alliance of Atlanta’s big-league sports teams, there’s been a recent push for legalization of sports betting in Georgia. In fact, we could see the first legislation proposed as soon as next week.

Those teams, which make up what’s called The Professional Sports Integrity Alliance, is made up of the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United, the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Hawks.

The group has been busy lobbying lawmakers to legalize mobile sports betting. That’s wagering done on a phone, all cash, no credit.

There’s been some opposers, however, including Atlanta Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay, who thinks sports franchises wouldn’t make a dime off legalized betting.

Where does he say profit will go instead? It would become tax revenue that would go to the state of Georgia. Although he does believe the individual franchises would profit from increased fan engagement, something he believes is important in modern sports.

“With the younger fans, we need more engagement,”McKay said. “What we’ve seen from all the numbers is how much sports gambling there is going on from that age of 23 to 40, and this becomes an engagement opportunity for us.”

A European Betting Model

McKay said teams would base the betting on the European Model, where bets are made over a phone or mobile device.

Because it would not use credit cards, only cash in an account, he believes most bets would be made in the $10 to $20 range. He also said all the leagues and sports teams would take measures to ensure the integrity of the game.

The Alliance claims that the state of Georgia already has $1.5 billion worth of revenue due to underground or illegal gambling.

“They’re doing it now,” McKay said. “They’re doing it offshore, and they’re doing it illegally. So why wouldn’t we put some restrictions around it? Legalize it. Regulate it, and have the state make revenue off it.”

The Case for Gambling in the State

Georgia lawmakers are studying the potential economic benefits of expanding gambling in the state, which supporters say would bring thousands of jobs and pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the struggling Georgia Lottery-funded HOPE scholarship.

Jennifer Roberts, associate director of the International Center for Gaming Regulation at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a gaming law expert who has represented major hotel chains, said factors such as Georgia’s relative isolation from other gaming make a valid case for expanding the industry.

“In general, gambling does bring economic benefit to states,” Roberts said. “But any form of gambling is a policy decision for each state. Policymakers have to decide what the smartest approach is for their state.” Supporters for years have tried different ways to expand gambling in Georgia, through casinos or horse racing, but a recent call from Governor Brian Kemp to cut down budgets has renewed energy around the topic.

Georgians will need to approve a constitutional amendment to allow the expansion of casino gambling or horse racing betting within the state.

Kemp has said that while he opposes casino gambling, he will not stand in the way of putting an amendment before voters as long as it guarantees the revenue will benefit HOPE. Georgia Lottery officials have said improved performance by high schoolers and rising tuition have made it increasingly difficult to fulfill HOPE’s goal of providing full scholarships to the state’s top students.

“I know there’s always those opposed to gambling — and it is a policy decision,” Roberts said. “But there are definitely benefits from having a regulated legal (gambling) system. Part of that is having responsible gambling methods and consumer protections. That’s in addition to revenue benefits.”

Roberts said Georgia’s relative isolation from most forms of gambling creates an economic opportunity.