Georgia Advances Sports Betting Ballot Question

Georgia Advances Sports Betting Ballot Question article feature image

Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Falcons WRs Tajae Sharpe, Russell Gage

A last minute effort to legalize sports betting is alive in the Georgia statehouse.

The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee, on Monday, advanced two bills that would allow Georgians to legalize retail and online sports betting during the November election.

The bills, one of which sets up regulatory structure, and the other which would create the ballot question, faced lengthy questioning from lawmakers, indicating a difficult path forward with just days remaining in the 2022 legislative session.

The full House and Senate must pass both bills before they adjourn April 4, or else sports betting won’t come to Georgia until at least 2025.

The majority of time allotted for questions centered around an amendment to prohibit betting on sports played by minors. Like most states, Georgia’s legislation would prohibit legal betting on high school sports, but lawmakers made sure independent youth sport leagues are expressly forbidden, too.

They also passed an amendment that makes a very minor tweaks to definition of daily fantasy sports, which is currently illegal in Georgia.

The regulatory bill would create a Georgia gaming commission—separate from the state lottery to oversee all forms of gaming. That allows lawmakers to easily pass things like iGaming and fantasy sports in years to come, without amending the constitution, according to bill sponsor Rep. Ron Stephens.

Under the regulatory bill, Georgia would tax sports betting at a 20% rate. That would generate at least $100 million in annual revenue split up between the general fund and early education, Stephens said.

It allows up to 18 licenses, setting aside half for Georgia's professional sports teams. Applicants would pay a $100,000 fee to be considered.

“We need to keep the value of these licenses high,” Stephens said.

Last year the Senate passed bills to amend the state constitution to allow for sports betting, though the House declined to take them up. The bills advanced by the House committee today amend the carried over legislation to apply to this year.

If the House and Senate can pass both bills in time this go-around, leal sports betting will come down whether or not voters have the appetite for it in November.

If they can't, it would be difficult to legalize sports betting next year as constitutional amendments require more votes during odd-numbered legislative sessions.

There is no full House vote scheduled at this time.

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