Georgia is likely to see legalized sports betting in the state soon as supporters plan to push the process in the 2021 legislative session.
As the advocates will be stressing the financial benefits of the industry while pitching sports betting, casinos, and horse racing, both together and separately, online sports betting is the best chance to advance. This is because, unlike gambling which requires a constitutional amendment, betting on sports betting has fewer hurdles to jump to reach the finishing lines. Chairman of the House Committee Georgia Representative, Ron Stephens, said, “it’s the easiest one to pass as it does not require a constitutional amendment.” He added that the legislature only has to give the Georgia Lottery Commission direction and authority.
The next legislative session is set to begin on January 11.
How Have We Reached Here?
For almost a decade, efforts have been made to regulate casino gambling and pari-mutuel betting on horse racing in the Peach State. Yet, each time they remained short of mustering the two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate of the state, a constitutional requirement to amend the law and put it on the statewide ballot.
On the contrary, advocates say sports betting would only need simple majorities to get through the two chambers as it could be regulated simply by amending the law that formed the Georgia Lottery during the 1990s. In addition, sports betting also has the benefit of being a relatively new entrant to the legalization debate. It was only taken up for the first time by the General Assembly during this year’s session.
Sports Betting in Georgia: Where it Stands Now
In 2020, lawmakers kicked off what can be called the first attempt at legalizing sports betting in Georgia when they put forward a house bill, HB 570. The proposed measure included a 10% tax on gross sports wagering revenue, legalizing mobile sports betting, and extending the regulatory powers of sports betting to the lottery.
For most bettors in the Peach State, it would be an ideal setting for both the consumers and the state that is being followed successfully in most other jurisdictions in the US. Firstly, it would allow for a decent tax percentage for state revenue. Secondly, it would allow mobile betting, enabling anyone to place bets from where they are in the state. And, thirdly, the bill would allow the lottery to grant licenses and regulations.
However, unluckily for both residents and the state’s industry, the bill did not get past a committee in 2020 as Congress could not agree on the wording to bring it to the floor of the State House for voting.
Future of Sports Betting in Georgia
It’s interesting but not unexpected that the same lawmakers will be pushing for another legalization push in Georgia in the upcoming spring when Congress is in session.
One thing that is behind this apparently sudden shift in opinion of most individuals, including lawmakers, is the coronavirus pandemic. Many states are searching for new revenue sources as they face huge debt in the wake of the dragging economic growth, if not regression. Georgia too needs ingenious ways to bridge the gap between expenditure and revenues. Indeed, the sports betting industry is one of the easiest and most lucrative ways to achieve this.
Yet, another leading or probably contagious reason for pushing this bill through is that many other states across the nation are regulating the sports betting industry. It is also the ideal time to launch Georgia sports betting considering that neighboring Florida has not regulated the industry. It essentially means Florida bettors would flock to Georgia to place legal wagers in a process that would only swell the Peach State’s revenue.
Professional Sports Teams Supports the Measure
Georgia sports betting has the support of Atlanta’s four professional sports teams, The Braves, Hawks, Falcons, and Atlanta United. The teams believe sports betting would generate more fan interest, notably at a time when they have had to cut short seasons and limit audience due to the pandemic. All four teams formed a coalition last year to lobby for the legalization process.
The sports teams have every reason to support the bill that allocates 20% of the state’s sports betting proceeds for funding the HOPE Scholarship program.