Georgia Sports-Betting Bills See First House Talks

March 13, 2024
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With just over two weeks remaining in the state’s legislative session, sports-betting legislation received its first hearing in a Georgia House of Representatives committee on Tuesday.
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With just over two weeks remaining in the state’s legislative session, sports-betting legislation received its first hearing in a Georgia House of Representatives committee on Tuesday (March 12).

The House Higher Education Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 386, one of two bills that need to clear the chamber in order to amend the state’s constitution to permit sports betting.

The first bill was passed by the Senate on February 1 and would allow for 16 mobile betting licenses to be issued by the Georgia Lottery Corporation.

Nine of the licenses would be reserved for professional sports teams and facilities, as well as the lottery itself to serve as an operator, while the other seven would be open licenses available through a public procurement process.

The bill was originally standalone legislation that would not require a separate constitutional amendment, but it was amended on the floor to require an amendment, and a two-thirds voting threshold that comes along with it.

Senate Resolution 579, the second of the two required bills, was approved by the Senate on February 27, but includes some differences that will need to be ironed out before the bills are to become law.

“The constitutional amendment doesn't agree with the language in the bill, because the constitutional amendment contemplates setting up another piece of state government to do that,” said Representative Chuck Martin, the chair of the Higher Education committee.

“So as we move forward, if we move forward with the idea of a constitutional amendment, we'll have to work the amendment and the bill to make those work together."

“The idea today was to sound [out] the senators changes,” he added. “We have a lot of work to do on this measure and some others, as a committee.”

Martin said both bills could be on the agenda for discussion at another hearing on Wednesday, but that neither will receive a vote out of committee during that meeting.

The bills are now facing a race against the clock, however, as only seven legislative days remain in the session before its adjournment on March 28, and the bill will likely need to be approved by multiple House committees and the full House itself, then see any differences resolved by a conference committee made up of legislators from both chambers.

If the bills fail to clear the legislature this year, it could be several years before sports betting is launched in the Peach State in any form.

Several attempts to pass the bill without a constitutional amendment have quickly been foiled, so if the legislature maintains that position, the next possible opportunity to adopt legislation would be an amendment that voters decide on in the November 2026 election, as constitutional amendments are only on even-year ballots.

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