A new bipartisan Georgia sports betting bill was filed Wednesday in the Senate, and the measure has the backing of several key leaders on both sides of the aisle.
Senate Bill 386 is the second sports betting bill filed in that chamber this month. It’s sponsored by Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, and its cosponsors include Sen. Bo Hatchett, R-Clarksville, who serves as the floor leader for Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, and Minority Leader Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain.
Unlike Senate Bill 172, which received a hearing earlier this month in the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities, SB 386 would not require a voter referendum to pass a constitutional amendment allowing sports betting. Instead, if lawmakers pass the bill, the Georgia Lottery Corporation would be the state agency regulating it.
SB 386 is also limited to online wagering only.
Supporters of Georgia sports betting have cited an opinion released last year by former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton, who stated an amendment was not needed because sports wagering could be construed as a lottery product.
What’s In The Bill?
SB 386’s key provisions include establishing a tax of 15% on sports betting operators’ adjusted gaming revenue. It’s uncertain how much the bill would generate, but revenues would be used to fund pre-kindergarten programs across the state.
As many as 16 licenses would be made available. Like North Carolina, which passed its sports betting law last year and just announced a March 11 launch date, Georgia’s professional sports teams - the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Dream and Atlanta FC - would hold rights to partner with operators. The PGA Tour, Augusta National Golf Course, home of the Masters, and Atlanta Motor Speedway would also be eligible.
The state lottery would also be allowed to hold a license. In addition, the lottery would be able to award seven sports betting licenses to operators through a public procurement process.
Eligible entities would pay a $100,000 application fee and, if approved, pay an annual license fee of $1 million. Sports betting providers would pay a $10,000 application fee and a $100,000 yearly fee if approved for licensure.
Georgia sports betting would be open to adults 21 and older. The bill also requires that wagering begin in the state no later than Jan. 31, 2025.
With the backing of key leaders, chances for SB 386 to pass would seem to be strong in the Senate. There’s more uncertainty in the House, although supporters of expanded gaming hold key positions in that chamber.
Sports betting is legal and operational in 38 states and the District of Columbia. Three of Georgia’s neighboring states – Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee – are among those that allow it.
With a population of more than 11 million, Georgia is the third-largest state in the country where sports betting is not legal. If that changes, the state would likely become one of the leading markets in the country, thanks to its large population base and a large number of sports fans who enjoy football, baseball, basketball, golf, racing and other sports.
BetGeorgia.com will continue to monitor the situation in the statehouse and provide updates on legislation for Georgia betting apps as they occur.