Georgia Revives Sports Betting Measure to Potentially Generate $60m

  • Senate Special Judiciary Committee voted 5-2 in favor of sports betting legislation
  • Senator Burt Jones estimates $60m annual tax revenue from legal online sports betting 
  • House Bill 903 amendment would see Georgia Lottery Corporation in charge of sector
  • Proposal, originally filed as Senate Bill 403 earlier this year, did not make much headway
woman at the bar celebrating a mobile win
Lawmakers in Georgia are looking to legalize online and mobile sports betting, potentially generating $60m in tax revenue annually. [Image:]

Update: The online sports betting bill as well as a gambling ballot referendum bill to authorize commercial casinos in Georgia failed to pass the state legislature before it adjourned its 2020 session. Neither was heard on the final day of hearings on June 26.

The latest push 

Lawmakers in Georgia are looking to legalize online and mobile sports betting, with the Senate Special Judiciary Committee voting 5-2 in favor of the measure on June 19.

an extra $60m for the state coffers each year

Jackson Republican State Senator Burt Jones spoke to the committee on Friday, forecasting that legal online sports betting would conservatively generate an extra $60m for the state coffers each year. Jones said that unregulated sports betting in the state currently constitutes a $1.5bn industry.

This latest legislative measure is an amendment of House Bill 903, which originally concerned motor vehicle ticket citations, in order to get the sports betting bill over the line. If the proposed bill is passed, the Georgia Lottery Corporation would be in charge of regulating the state’s sports betting sector.

There is, however, some uncertainty about the bill’s progression through the Republican-controled full Senate after getting approval from the all-Democrats committee. Georgia’s Republican-dominated legislature has been very conservative in recent years in relation to gambling expansion. The state lottery is currently the only form of legal gambling in Georgia.

Potential revenue driver

Senator Jones presented the argument that because voters in Georgia previously approved a constitutional amendment to allow a state lottery, no further amendment would be needed if sports betting was operated under the umbrella of the lottery. If a public vote was necessary, the bill would first have to get two-thirds support in both the House and Senate in Georgia.

Most of the revenue from the lottery goes towards funding education programs in the state. With Georgia’s government set to have a $2.6bn budget shortfall for 2021, sports betting is being hailed as a way to drive some new revenue.

Senator Jones also observed that the lottery’s revenue growth is slowing, which could present an issue for the funding of college scholarships and pre-school programs in the state. He added that the solution would be to either cut costs or find a way to generate more capital. An adjusted gross income tax rate of 20% and an annual license fee of $900,000 are being proposed as part of the latest measure.

Previous expansion plans

Early 2020 saw an attempt to legalize sports betting, casinos, and horse racing betting in Georgia. A study commissioned in April 2019 had also looked at the state’s potential opportunities through different forms of gambling expansion. 

major professional sports teams in Georgia are all in favor

This latest proposal was originally filed earlier this year as Senate Bill 403, which did not make much headway. Together with House Resolution 378, it failed to meet the state’s legislative deadline in March. If sports betting had been legalized then, the state lottery would have been able to issue licenses to operators. Consumers could then remotely place bets anywhere in the state provided they were at least 21 years old.

The major professional sports teams in Georgia are all in favor of sports betting legalization. The Atlanta Braves, United, Falcons, and Hawks have formed a coalition called the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance to support the measure. 

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