Georgia Sports-Betting Legislation Clears First Hurdle

January 31, 2024
New legislation that would permit sports betting in Georgia without an accompanying state constitutional amendment began to make its way through the General Assembly on Tuesday, clearing a Senate committee.

New legislation that would permit sports betting in Georgia without an accompanying state constitutional amendment began to make its way through the General Assembly on Tuesday (January 30), clearing a Senate committee.

An amended version of Senate Bill 386, which would authorize sports betting under the umbrella of the Georgia Lottery Corporation without requiring a constitutional amendment, was approved in the Senate Committee on Economic Development and Tourism by an 8-2 vote.

The bill, which was filed last week, is a bipartisan effort to permit mobile betting after last year’s effort was foiled, at least in part, by unrelated political fallout that led to the two major parties being unwilling to work together to pass almost any legislation.

“We had almost as many Democrats sign on the bill as we did Republicans,” said Republican Senator Clint Dixon, the bill’s chief sponsor.

The committee approved several changes to the bill from the originally filed version, including raising the proposed tax rate from 15 percent of adjusted gross revenue to 20 percent.

The amended bill also now encourages minority participation in sports betting, and would prohibit the use of credit cards to fund wagering accounts. Under SB 386, the Georgia Lottery could award a total of 16 licenses to sports-betting operators, with half of those licenses set aside for the designated partners of Georgia professional sports teams and venues.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce has lobbied in favor of approving sports betting as a standalone bill rather than enacting a constitutional amendment through a voter referendum and a representative of the powerful body spoke in favor of SB 386 during the hearing.

“There are a good many of us in this room that have been at the table working on this, both from the team side, leagues, industry, and we believe this bill has brought a win for Georgia in multiple different ways,” said Nick Fernandez, the chamber’s director of government affairs, referencing support from Atlanta's pro sports teams as well as major national operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings.

Fernandez specifically highlighted the eight licenses that would be tethered to professional sports teams and facilities as something the chamber is supportive of.

“By investing in the teams here, and the infrastructure and the venues that have jobs here ... we believe this provides an opportunity for Georgia to get a win,” he added.

In addition to the licenses tethered to the teams and facilities, another license would be available for the Georgia Lottery to operate its own sports-betting platform. Seven additional, standalone licenses would be available through a public procurement process overseen by the lottery.

Opposition came on moral grounds from religious groups Georgia Faith and Freedom and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.

“One of the main reasons we oppose gambling is because gambling is basically legalized fraud,” said Mike Griffin, a public affairs representative for the board. “This is state-sponsored predatory gambling.”

Another notable commenter on the bill was Georgia-based daily fantasy sports operator PrizePicks.

Georgia does not regulate fantasy sports, but the proposed bill includes a statutory definition of fantasy sports, calling it “a game or event in which one or more players compete based on winning outcomes that reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the players and are determined predominately by accumulated statistical results of the performance of individuals, including, but not limited to, athletes in sporting events.”

“We look forward to working with Senator Dixon and advocates to perfect some of this language,” said Stuart Wilkinson, a representative of PrizePicks. “I think specifically, we're looking at that fantasy definition. We're hoping to tighten that legislation with that language.”

Wilkinson also suggested the state include regulation of fantasy sports as part of the bill.

“If we can put a regulatory framework in place for daily fantasy sports, we estimate an additional $10m in revenue fees and $25m in just revenue,” he said.

If the bill is to be approved, the state would target a same-day launch for eligible licensed operators no later than January 2025.

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