Georgia legislators have taken the first step in a renewed effort to enact sports betting in the state, with potential enabling legislation clearing a Senate committee on the second day of the 2024 session.
The Senate’s Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee on Tuesday (January 9) recommended passage of Senate Bill 172, which would legalize retail and mobile sports betting in the state.
The bill would require the newly created Georgia Sports Betting Commission to issue at least six “Type 1” online sports-betting licenses, with an uncapped number of licenses available. One of the licenses would be designated to the Georgia Lottery.
Applicants would pay a $100,000 application fee and a $1m annual license fee for an online license.
The bill would also allow for an uncapped number of businesses to apply for licenses to offer retail kiosks.
The bill outlines two separate tax rates, charging a higher 25 percent tax rate on supposedly higher-margin bets such as parlays, proposition wagers and live betting.
All other bets would be taxed at a 20 percent rate.
Other notable provisions include prohibiting proposition wagers on collegiate sporting events, and applying a maximum deposit limit of $2,000 in any 30 days unless a player “has the financial ability to deposit such higher amounts as determined by the commission pursuant to rules and regulations designed to protect bettors from the consequences of problem gambling.”
The bill would not legalize sports betting by itself but would serve as enabling legislation to a corresponding constitutional amendment that would allow voters to determine whether they wish sports wagering to be permitted in Georgia. Such a constitutional amendment would be subject to a state-wide referendum, potentially this November.
The committee passed the bill without an accompanying amendment prepared, which was the biggest source of controversy in the hearing.
State Senator Carden Summers said that he will have an amendment to present, and his colleague, Brandon Beach, will also have a broader amendment to present that could potentially open the door for other forms of gaming.
“We’re not going anywhere without a [constitutional amendment],” Summers said.
For some committee members, the lack of certainty regarding what the whole package would look like was concerning.
“You don’t have a [constitutional amendment], and for me, that’s kind of like throwing darts in the dark,” said Senator Frank Ginn.
“I’ve never seen a [amendment] voted out without enabling legislation on this topic or another,” added Senator Greg Dolezal. “There’s a deal made here for funding for something, and I think without that bill being before us, I think it’d be worthwhile for the committee to consider both those together.”