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Georgia Senate bill on sports betting gets its first glance in the house

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The Georgia House heard the first time on Tuesday, 12 March, about a bill that would allow mobile betting across Georgia.

The Georgia House heard the first time on Tuesday, with just two weeks left in the current legislative session and five weeks after the Senate passed SB386, the bill statewide sports betting via mobile devices.

The Higher Education Committee of the House did not vote, but there may be further discussion this week. However, the chairman stated that a vote was not imminent.

Many representatives of daily fantasy companies said they would like to see their contests included in the legislation, while many representatives from anti-gambling and faith-based groups spoke out against it.

This bill allows for 16 licences to bet online on sports, eight of which would have to be tied down with professional sports teams or organizations in the state.

Seven more licences, each freestanding, would be available. One licence would go to the Georgia Lottery which will also act as a regulator. This bill is slightly different from the previous proposal and includes a Senate amendment which would allow the ultimate decision to be made by the voters.

Georgia’s professional teams, Augusta Country Club and PGA Tour as well as Atlanta Motor Speedway/Nascar are all eligible to apply for a license.

Georgia, the largest state to seriously consider a wagering proposition this year is six years after the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was overturned by the US Supreme Court. 35+ US jurisdictions offer live sports betting in some form.

The next step is to “marry” the constitutional amendment and framework

Senator Clint Dixon, the bill’s author (pictured), informed the members of the Senate Committee that college sports betting would be possible, the tax rate will be 20%, and accounts can only be “funded with cash”. There would be an application fee of $100,000 for licenses and a renewal fee of $1 million.

The Tuesday hearing was primarily an informational session. Dixon answered questions from the committee about adding the constitutional amendment to the bill, whether daily fantasy sports are included, and how tax money generated by sports betting will be spent.

Chuck Martin, the chair of the committee, was very clear when he said that this proposal is the one which passed in the senate. Tuesday’s agenda was to “sound the senator’s amendments to the enabling law”.

Martin stated that the Senate amendment which would have added the constitutional amendments to the proposal does not line up with current proposal. He added that it would be the responsibility of the House to “marry up” both pieces before they are put to a vote.

Can DFS be included in Georgia’s sports betting legislation?

A bill which would have made fantasy sports legal died on the 1st March in the House. Many delegates said they wanted to amend the sports betting law to include DFS.

PrizePicks, a fantasy operator based in Atlanta, said Dixon he was open to amending this bill to include Fantasy Sports.

Stuart Wilkinson, PrizePicks’ director of government relations, spoke out in favor of including DFS in the bill. He said he had shared model legislation that he hoped could be used in Georgia and other US states. Wilkinson said fantasy sports gambling could generate additional revenue, beyond that of sports betting.

Kayla Lott also requested that fantasy sports, as represented by PrizePicks Underdog, and Betr, be added to the bill.

Paul Smith, Citizen Impact’s Paul Smith, a member of the faith-based and social group Citizen Impact, argued that this bill is bad for Georgia and for Georgia families.

Dr John Kent shared two slogans: “Lose Your Tots To Online Slots” and “Click Your Mouse, Lose Your House”.

On the whole, those who oppose legalized gambling fear that the costs to society will exceed the gains for the government.

Brianne D. Schawohl shared an example of a New Jersey report, which claimed that the gambling tax revenue brought to the state was $385m, but the cost in social costs from the welfare system, homelessness, and criminal justice were $350m.

The bill splits the proceeds of tax money between lottery funds and education initiatives. Discussions were held about the specific educational programs that would receive funding.

What is a political football?

Georgia’s general assembly will adjourn its session on the 28th of March. Georgia legislators have discussed gambling expansion in the past, but either failed to act on it or used it as a politics football.

The 2021 legislative session was a consensus on a mobile gambling bill for the entire state. The Democrats withdrew their vote at the last moment after Republicans in the state passed a controversial bill on voting rights.

There was no agreement in 2022 and 2023, but there were vocal opponents of gambling.

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