Georgia Senate Approves Constitutional Amendment for Sports Betting

Person Browsing a Sports Betting Site on a Tablet

Georgia senators want voters to decide whether they will legalize sports betting in the Peach State by passing a constitutional amendment and a bill to allow the practice last Friday. Senators voted 41-10 in favor of the amendment and 34-17 for the bill, sending both to the House for more discussion and debate.

Senate Resolution 135 and Senate Bill 142 would legalize Georgia sports betting and let state lawmakers distribute the state’s revenues among three beneficiaries: college scholarships for low-income students, expanded high-speed internet, and rural health care services.

Said Sen Jeff Mullis, a Chickamauga Republican on the constitutional amendment:

“A no vote for this bill is allowing the bookies to continue to control sports betting, the bookies, the illegal activity… The yes vote is to allow the people to decide.”

Similar to Tennessee

The outline of Georgia sports betting is similar to that of Tennessee. Bettors should be at least 21 years old to place wagers. Only online betting is allowed but there is no limit as to the number of online sports betting operators that will be approved and there has to be a minimum of six.

Each Georgia sports betting operator will be required to pay a licensing fee of $100,000 per year after an upfront one-time payment of $10,000 during the application process. The tax rat would be 16% which is much less than the 20% that the House Committee is working on.

Under the Senate bill, gambling on in-state collegiate games is not allowed. That means that betting on Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern and other colleges in the state would not be fair-game for Georgia sports bettors.

Senate and House Have Different Approaches

The Senate and House have different approaches to legalizing Georgia sports betting. House Economic Development Tourism Committee chairman Ron Stephens is pushing for a house bill legalizing Georgia sports betting but it has yet be approved by Congress.

Stephens has argued that a constitutional amendment is not needed as long as the Georgia Lottery Corp. will be designated as the body to take charge of sports betting operations in the state. Athens Republican Sen. Bill Coswert rejected Stephens’ argument in a debate.

Congress has also re-committed to further work on one of their sports betting proposals, House Bill 86. With the current disagreements in provisions like taxes from profits and the amount of annual licensing fee among others, there’s no telling if the Senate’s Georgia sports betting bill can get through the House.

Georgia House Panel Pushes For Higher Sports Betting Tax Rates

Closeup of Man Making Sports Bets on His Phone

The Georgia House Economic Development and Tourism Committee has flip-flopped on the proposed tax rate for Georgia sports betting. After previously approving a bill that would tax bookmakers’ profits at 14%, the panel approved a revised version of House Bill 86 that would mandate payment of sports betting taxes at 20% of profits.

Committee chairman Ron Stephens, a Republican from Savannah, estimates that Georgia sports betting could bring in more than $30M per year to the state. That amount would greatly increase the funds for the HOPE college scholarships and increase subsidies for pre-kindergarten classes and child care.

House Bill 86

House Bill 86 or the Georgia sports betting bill mandates the Georgia Lottery Corporation to issue at least six licenses to companies who wish to offer sports betting activities in the state. These companies would be required to pay a licensing fee of $900,000 per year. After paying out bettors’ winnings, these sportsbooks would be taxed at a percentage of the remaining profits. The tax rate was previously set at 14% but the lawmakers now want to push it up to 20%.

The bill will also allow online sports wagering statewide with remote registration. Sports betting will be limited to professional sports while the state’s professional sports teams will be allowed to partner with sports betting operators. These operators will be mandated to purchase official sports data.

Legislative Deadline Nearing

Georgia’s General Assembly will be in session until April 2 and Bill 86 has a legislative deadline of the 28th session day to pass out of the chamber with Monday’s session being the 21st session already. The bill will now be directed to the Rules Committee and if it is passed there, it will go to the House Floor for a vote.

A Senate version of the Georgia Sports Bill had a hearing with the Committee on Regulated Industries Utilities last week. The difference between the two bills is that Senate bill 142 provides for a 10% tax rate and that wagering using credit cards and debits cards will be allowed.

House Committee Approves Georgia Sports Betting Bill

Man on Laptop With a Sportsbook and Money Background
Georgia’s House Economic Development and Tourism Committee voted 20-6 in favor of House Bill 86 or the the Georgia Sports Betting bill. With the committee’s approval, the bill will now be sent to the full House for more debate.

The committee voted without allowing any testimony from interested parties and without considering any amendments despite several members expressing their interest in making amendments.

Said state Rep. Ron Stephens, a Republican from Savannah, who is the primary author of the bill and at the same time the Chairman of the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee:

“We believe that the folks ought to just make it another lottery game.”

Georgia Lottery Mobile Sports Wagering Integrity Act

Known as the Georgia Lottery Mobile Sports Wagering Integrity Act, Bill 86 seeks to give the Georgia Lottery Corp. the mandate to hand out at least six licenses to companies who wish to engage in legal Georgia sports betting activities.

Under the legislation, Georgia sports betting operators will have to pay a $50,000 application fee and a $900,000 annual licensing fee. The companies would also be subject to 14% tax on their gross adjusted income which is derived by deducting payouts to bettors from the operators’ total bets received. The proceeds from the tax will benefit the lottery’s educational programs like the HOPE scholarships, state subsidies for pre kindergarten classes, and child care.

Georgia Sports Betting Bill Has Safeguards

Detractors of the Georgia sports betting bill argue that state-sponsored gambling will encourage addiction and social harms. According to those who oppose it, they do not want to open the door beyond Georgia’s already massive Lottery, saying they are trying to avoid legislative support for a constitutional amendment that will allow casinos.

However, Stephens counters that the Georgia sports betting bill includes safeguards like requiring bettors to be at least 21 years old, and only allowing people to wager using debit cards and not credit cards. It would also prohibit betting on high school or college sports and ban prop bets on certain events like player injuries.