Georgia Senate Advances Sports Betting Constitutional Amendment

Georgia Senate Advances Sports Betting Constitutional Amendment article feature image
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Wang Xiaoheng/Xinhua via Getty. Pictured: The Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta.

The Georgia Senate easily passed a sports betting constitutional amendment bill Friday, sending it to the House of Representatives where it faces a more difficult journey forward.

The Senate approved the ballot question on a 41-10 bipartisan vote. Senators also approved a follow-up regulatory and implementation bill, 37-13.

Georgia voters could legalize online sports betting on the 2022 ballot if the House also passes the bill. The House was set to consider a separate constitutional ballot measure Friday that would permit the state’s first legal sportsbooks, casinos and pari-mutuel horse tracks, but it appeared it would not advance. Another online sports betting legalization bill that had bounced back-and-forth between House committees and the full floor was also set to fall.

Georgia lawmakers have until Monday to pass legislation out of its originating chamber.

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Georgia Sports Betting Bill Details

The Georgia Lottery, the state’s lone gaming entity, would license and regulate sports betting. It must issue at least six qualified applicants online licenses but there are no maximum caps. This would create the nation’s second untethered, uncapped market after neighboring Tennessee.

The bill would not permit retail sportsbooks.

All in-state college betting would be prohibited under the regulatory bill passed Friday, meaning bettors could not wager on popular programs such as the University of Georgia or Georgia Tech. The bill also prohibits out-of-state college prop betting.

Professional sports moneyline, point spread, totals, parlays, live bets, prop bets and other major wagering options are permitted in the bill. The state’s professional sports teams are championing the bill.

Sportsbooks would be charged a one-time $10,000 application fee and $100,000 in licensing fees annually, rates low enough that backers believe will attract local brands along with national operators such as DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM. The 16-percent tax rate is higher than the median national average, but should not detract top sportsbooks’ market participation.

Only bettors age 21 and older physically within Georgia state lines could wager. Bettors could not deposit more than $2,500 in a 30-day period.

Next Steps

Georgia voters could approve online sports betting on the 2022 ballot If the House passes both the constitutional amendment bill and the regulatory bill. Clearing the House will not be easy.

Gaming-averse House members have sidelined online sports betting bills as well as more expansive casino and pari-mutuel constitutional amendment. Multiple bills have ping-ponged through the House only to likely fail before Monday’s “crossover” deadline.

Two-thirds of the House must approve any constitutional amendment for it to appear on the ballot, a high threshold for even less-controversial proposals. Both the Senate and House must pass identical versions.

Proponents in both the House and Senate believe the upper chamber’s resounding support can push sports betting forward. The constitutional amendment route also sidesteps a possible veto from Gov. Brian Kemp, a gambling opponent.

Sen. Jeff Mullis said Friday the House will amend both the constitutional amendment bill and the regulatory legislation. The bills’ sponsor said he expects one or both will require a conference committee from members of both houses and parties to hammer out discrepancies during the next phase of the legislative process.

Though significant work remains, Friday’s resounding Senate vote leaves sports-betting backers hopeful voters can approve wagering on next year’s ballot.

“Ladies and gentlemen, here we are again, another day that we can improve the quality of life for Georgia by this.” Mullis said before the constitutional amendment vote. “Let’s send a message today that we’re allowing the people to vote.”

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