Georgia could become one of the next states to offer legalized sports betting. On Friday, the Georgia Senate passed a sports betting constitutional amendment bill, which will be sent to the House of Representatives. The bill passed easily by a bipartisan 41-10 vote in the Senate. Senators also approved of a bill detailing regulatory and installation measures by a vote of 37-13.
Getting the bill through the House will be a much tougher task, however. If the House does vote to approve the measure, sports betting could show up on the Georgia ballot as early as next year. The House was supposed to consider a different constitutional ballot measure on Friday that would permit the state to open its first sportsbooks, casinos, and horse racing tracks, but the measure appeared unlikely to advance. A separate bill that has been moved between several House committees also appears primed for failure.
The Senate bill calls for the Georgia Lottery to license and regulate the state’s sports betting industry. The Lottery would have the job of issuing at least six qualified licenses to online applicants, but there is no limit on the number of operating licenses that can be issued. If that part of the bill ultimately gets through, Georgia would join Tennessee as the only states in the US with uncapped sports betting markets.
The bill would not allow for retail sportsbooks, with all sports betting activity instead taking place online. Bettors would also be barred from wagering on sporting events involving in-state schools, like the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech. The state is home to four major professional sports franchises. Point spreads, moneylines, totals, prop bets, and other major betting options would be allowed under the Senate bill. All of the aforementioned pro sports teams that call Georgia home have voiced their support of the measure.
Prospective operators would be charged a $10,000 application fee with $100,000 in licensing fees on an annual basis. DraftKings, BetMGM, and FanDuel are among the operators that would surely have interest in launching operations in the Peach State. The proposed 16 percent tax rate is higher than the national average, but still not high enough to dissuade major operators from getting involved.
Only people aged 21 and older and physically located within state lines would be eligible to place a wager. Bettors would also be barred from depositing more than $2,500 into their betting accounts over the course of a 30-day span.
Two-thirds of the members of the Georgia House would have to vote in favor of the bill in order for it to pass. There are quite a few members of the House that have been outspoken against sports betting in the past. Both the House and the Senate have to pass identical versions of the bill in order for it to get to the desk of Governor Brian Kemp, as well.
Some are optimistic that the landslide vote in the Senate will be enough to help the measure gain some steam in the House, but passage will still be difficult. It also doesn’t help that Gov. Kemp is a staunch opponent of legalized gambling. Passing the legislation via constitutional amendment would allow for the bill to override any gubernatorial veto, but the process still has plenty of roadblocks.
Senator Jeff Mullis said that he expects the House to amend both the constitutional amendment bill and the regulatory bill before sending it back to the Senate. He believes members will be able to sort out certain details during the next phase of the legislative process. Before Friday’s vote, Senator Mullis said, “Ladies and gentlemen, here we are again, another day that we can improve the quality of life for Georgia by this. Let’s send a message today that we’re allowing the people to vote.”
The state legislature having gained more Democrats recently could help the bill’s chances of passing. The measure passed through the Senate would use sports betting proceeds to benefit needs-based college scholarships, rural broadband, and statewide healthcare programs.