Lawmakers revive sports betting measure in Georgia

The state of Georgia is one step closer towards legalising sports betting.

Lawmakers in the state of Georgia have revived a piece of legislation that would bring sports betting to residents in the state.

Last week, the Senate Special Judiciary Committee added a sports wagering measure to HB 903, an unrelated bill about traffic tickets that passed the House in March.

HB 903 will now be sent to the State Senate for a full vote.

The sports betting measure

If HB 903 is signed into law with the sports betting measure intact, sports betting would become legal in the state of Georgia.

Sports betting in Georgia would be overseen by the Georgia Lottery Corporation and a 20% tax rate would be applied to gross sports betting revenue. The measure also includes an official league data mandate for in-play sports betting.

State proceeds from the activity would be allocated to Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship and pre-kindergarten programs.

If the measure is successful, Georgia will become the first state in the region to legalise sports betting.

Reviving the state’s sports betting measure

The sports betting measure was initially filed as SB 403 by Senator Burt Jones but did not make it out of the Senate by “crossover day,” the 28th day of the legislative session. Legislation that does not progress by crossover day is usually considered dead until the new legislative session.

Like many other states, Georgia is facing a multibillion-dollar budget deficit due to the shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic and it appears that sports betting could help offset some of the impact of the pandemic.

On Friday, Jones said that projected tax revenue from sports betting could be anywhere between $50m and $60m once the activity is fully operational.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Jones said: “The only way to keep that program viable for years to come is to do one of two things — cut cost or find ways to generate more revenue dollars. There are statistics that show it is a $1.5 billion industry right here in Georgia, but it’s not regulated. It’s practicing in the shadows.”

The original sports betting bill had the support of four professional sports teams who are responsible for creating the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance. These teams included the NFL Falcons, NBA Hawks, MLB Braves, and MLS Atlanta United. These teams wrote a letter to lawmakers saying that legalising mobile sports betting will “enhance our engagement with fans.”

On Friday, Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin testified that sports betting would work as an effective method to reach fans.

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

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