Georiga Rep. Ron Stephens

  • House Bill 86 that would make online and mobile sports betting in Georgia legal has passed in its first committee by a landslide.
  • Over $40 million is estimated to be generated annually from the sports wagering industry that would go toward the HOPE Scholarship.
  • The Georgia General Assembly adjourns in April with a decision on the bill regarding sports gaming needing to be made by then.

ATLANTAGeorgia is one step closer to a legal sports betting market as a bill that would legalize the industry has passed through its first committee.

A 20-6 majority vote on Tuesday in the House Tourism and Economic Development Committee gave House Bill 86 the first green light on its quest toward becoming a law in 2021.

The most attractive part of this legislation for the Peach State is that the proposal would allow for lawmakers to approve and open the legal sports betting market without the need to amend the state’s constitution.

House Bill 86 Details

House Bill 86 would be a completely online and mobile sports betting industry in Georgia. No changes to the constitution of the state would be required if legislation is done in this manner without any land-based sportsbook venues mentioned.

The Georgia Lottery is named as the regulator of the market which is another reason why GA HB 86 would be able to bypass a constitutional amendment.

The Georgia Lottery is already a legal gambling outlet and would be in charge of overseeing the entire sports wagering industry. There is no cap within the current draft that says how many licensed operators the lottery could accept.

Sports bettors 21 and over anywhere inside the state lines could access the online and mobile sports betting applications to gamble on professional sports matchups.

But, collegiate sports betting is banned under House Bill 86.

There is a 14% tax rate on all GGR required from sportsbook operators with that money going toward the HOPE Scholarship. It is projected that sports betting in Georgia would generate around $40 million a year for the Scholarship. However, naysayers say that there is already over $1 billion reserved for the HOPE Scholarship through the lottery should they need to tap into those reserves, making $40 million a year a very small addition to the cause when it would mean having to make sports betting legal to get it.

Yet plenty are in favor of this legislation like the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance that is made up of the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Falcons, the Atlanta Hawks, and the Atlanta United.

Sports wagering occurs in Georgia every day without any profit to the economy. These professional teams believe that a regulated and state-sanctioned market would make it safer for the consumer, add profit to the state, and create a larger fan base for their sports teams which in turn creates more money for their franchises.

“It’s for fan participation,” said Representative Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), Sponsor of GA HB 86. “As I said earlier, the stands are empty. They believe that fan engagement is what sports betting is all about. We can legitimize it, if you will, through the lottery. If you’re going to do it offshore, why don’t we collect the revenue here in Georgia?”

While opposition fears addiction issues should gambling on sports become legal, the Georgia Lottery already puts $400,000 a year toward addiction programs.

These programs are open to all Georgians statewide and are free of cost to them. Since this is an issue that is already being taken care of, it shouldn’t raise too many problems for legalization of sports betting as the legislative process for GA HB 86 continues moving forward.

What’s Next For Georgia?

Sports betting legalization in Georgia is building momentum in the Georgia General Assembly with House Bill 86. The session adjourns for the year on April 2.

A decision on a legal mobile and online sports wagering industry for Georgia will need to be made by then through policymaker votes.

There is no date set yet for the next hearing. But, in terms of a favorable outcome, it looks as though the Peach State is tipping toward the side of legalizing the activity this year.

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