Pair of Georgia Sports Betting Bills Inch Through Legislature

Pair of Georgia Sports Betting Bills Inch Through Legislature
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

A pair of Georgia sports betting bills faced disparate outcomes Tuesday, as the state considers legalized wagering.

Both House Bill 380 and Senate Bill 57 were discussed in the chambers of the legislature in Atlanta. Lawmakers and members of the public spent close to two hours debating HB 380, while the Senate Economic Development Committee cleared SB 57.

The house bill’s future is unclear, with no further hearings scheduled. The senate’s wagering legislation moves to a vote on the floor at a later date after clearing its first committee on an 8-1 vote.

Both bills would legalize sports betting, with HB380 legalizing online-only wagering, while SB57 allows for online and retail options. Both would place a 20% tax on wagers, after sponsors of the house bill upped the rate from 15% prior to Tuesday’s meeting.  

What Was Said During Tuesday’s House Hearing

Lawmakers in the house spent much of their meeting Tuesday peppering Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville) with questions about everything from offshore sportsbooks to preventing those who cannot afford to wager from actively doing so.

In between, the members heard testimony in favor of wagering from Nick Fernandez of the Atlanta Metro Chamber, along with Ronnie Chance (representing the NFL) and a representative from the Sports Betting Alliance (consisting of DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, BetMGM Sportsbook and Fanatics).

Countering that support were four attendees representing a variety of interests, such as the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, Citizen Impact, the Georgia Faith and Freedom Institute and the University of Georgia Law School.

Those in favor of HB380 and Georgia sports betting at large, such as Fernandez, cited the bill’s funding mechanisms for education and other services as a reason to stand behind it.

“I think you'll hear from many multiple folks today that we've worked with on this legislation,” Fernandez said. “We feel this is a Georgia-based solution. We feel this is a solution that puts Georgia first. …Education programs that are currently being funded through the lottery, we feel this provides an opportunity to add additional revenues for those streams.”

For those opposed, such as Georgia law professor Dr. John Kent, the legislation serves as a way for out-of-state companies to siphon more money from Georgia’s residents.

Kent, who previously served as a professor at the University of Illinois, told lawmakers his former state has been raked over the coals by sports betting operators, saying the Peach State needed to learn from those mistakes.

“Throughout the U.S., gambling interests are siphoning and misdirecting state funds away from education and public employee pensions,” Kent said. “For example, big gambling has been largely responsible for taking Illinois from fiscal responsibility and solvency to $175 billion in unfunded liabilities.”

How Lawmakers Reacted to Tuesday’s Testimony

The response from lawmakers to Rep. Wiedower and those that spoke during Tuesday’s hearing was as mixed as the testimony itself.

Some, like Chairman Chuck Martin, seemed agnostic or in favor of Georgia sports betting, based on the slant of their questions and comments during the hearing.

Others, like Reps. Clay Pirkle and Rhonda Burnough, focused more on the socioeconomic issues that could arise from allowing the state’s vulnerable populations to gain easier access to wagering.

Wiedower did his best to placate both sides in his closing testimony, saying his final bill will likely do little to win over skeptics from both camps, but it will be what’s best for the state.

“No interested party in this in the end is going to be happy with me,” Wiedower said. “Quite frankly, you know, whether it's an operator that wants, you know, a lower tax rate or, or an individual who wants to see more money going into you know, specifically in a pre-K.

“What I simply have tried to do with this is put the appropriate guard rails to protect Georgians, not open this up to conversations that don't belong in this specific bill.” 

There are no additional hearings on the books for HB380 and SB57, though that could change as the week advances.

HB 380 will go before the House Higher Education Committee at least one more time, likely in a hearing that will include a formal vote. The next stop for SB 57 would be the Senate floor at some point in the coming weeks.



Christopher Boan has been covering sports and sports betting for more than seven years, including stops at, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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