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Georgia Revives Sports Betting Legislation

Sports betting in Georgia could be back on the table after the Senate Committee revived a bill that would legalize the vertical if passed.

House Bill 903 (HB903) was amended to become a sports betting bill, having previously been a legislative piece related to traffic ticketing. 

Under its traffic conditions, HB903 had passed through the House in March 2020. 

It will now be moved on to the Senate, who will have a full vote. 

Sports betting in Georgia: the story so far

In attempts to bring sports betting to Georgia, Senate Bill 403 (SB403) had been proposed in the past. However, this died a quiet death and failed to receive a single committee vote. 

Another piece of legislation, titled House Resolution 378, also attempted to open up the Georgian sports betting market. However, like SB403, it failed to move forward in time to meet legislative deadlines. 

It’s not uncommon for an unrelated bill to be changed in the final few days of a legislative session to conclude things. And that is what has happened with HB903. 

Last October, Georgia Deputy Legislative Counsel D. Stuart Morelli said that amending the state’s constitution to allow sports betting might not be necessary. This is due to the fact that, in its current form, the constitution only permits lotteries. However, Morelli also said that it’s preferable that it is edited. 

What are the practicalities of sports betting in Georgia?

If sports betting is legalized in the Peach State, operators will be taxed at 20% of their gross gaming revenue (GGR). A non-refundable $50,000 initial license application fee will need to be paid, too. 

Should sportsbooks be permitted to offer sports betting within state borders, they will need to pay an annual license fee of $900,000. There is no cap on the number of operators that will be allowed in Georgia. 

The Empire of the South is known for its major sporting teams, including NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United FC of the MLS. Fans would be able to wager in-play if sports betting becomes regulated. 

If operators offer in-play betting markets, they must use official league data if an event’s governing body asks that this happens. 

Betting on penalties would not be permitted, nor would individual prop bets for collegiate games. Licensed sportsbooks would also have to set betting time limits, though no time has yet been set. 

High-profile support for sports betting in Georgia 

Senator Burt Jones, who put forward HB403, said last week that it’s reasonable to expect that sports betting in Georgia would bring in revenue worth $60 million each year. 

Like with many US states, the COVID-19 pandemic has damaged Georgia’s economy. For the 2021 budget, cuts of $1 billion in K-12 school funding have been announced.

On Friday last week, Jones had the following to say about the legalization of sports wagering in the state. 

“This right here, the online betting program, is I think an answer to adding significant revenue dollars to a system [that] moving down the road will continue to need more dollars.

“And you’re taking an activity that is currently going on right now.”

Professional sports teams in Georgia have also backed regulating sports betting within state borders. The Georgia Sports Integrity Alliance says the following on its website.

“The Atlanta Braves, Falcons and Hawks and United have come together in support of mobile and online wagering. 

“Americans illegally wager more than $150 billion on sports every year through illegal bookmakers and offshore sites. Georgia is the 12th largest state for illegal wagering. It is not “going away. That is why we must ensure the industry is above-board and transparent. 

A new state law to legalize mobile and online professional sports wagering, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards, will bring significant new revenue to Georgia and offer safeguards to protect the integrity of professional sports.”

Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin also shared his thoughts on regulating sports betting in the Peach State. He said the below. 

“During this difficult time for our professional sports teams, maintaining and building our engagement and relationship with fans is absolutely critical.”

Should Georgia regulate sports betting, it will join the likes of Illinois and Colorado in doing so. 

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