• HR 380 seeks to change the Ga. constitution to allow sports betting.
  • The bill does not establish a regulatory framework, which would come later.
  • The bill neither legalizes nor prohibits online sports betting.

ATLANTA – In a bit of shocker, Georgia lawmakers are set to consider HR 380, which would legalize in-state, land-based sports betting. Georgia is not known for its liberal gaming laws, so this development was largely unexpected by industry insiders.

Whether or not the bill has enough bipartisan support for passage in the state remains to be seen. Still, it is encouraging that in a place like Georgia – which has no mainstream gambling culture of any kind – sports betting is actively being considered.

If sports betting is legalized in Georgia, it will be the Peach State’s first foray into the world of legal wagering. Historically, Georgia has been extremely conservative, avoiding the “vices” of gambling altogether. There are no tribal or commercial casinos in Georgia, with the industry limited to only charity pull tabs, bingo, and the state lottery.

What HR 380 Is

On its face, HR 380 is a declaration to legalize sports betting. The proposal has many implications, but it is thin on details. The purpose of the bill is simply to establish legality for the industry.

Essentially, HR 380 is the first step towards legalizing sports betting rather than the final legislative language to regulate such an industry. It is a state constitutional amendment, and it seeks congressional approval – via a simple yay or nay vote – for the nominal legalization of sports betting. Section 1 of the proposal contains the operative thrust of the bill:

“The General Assembly may provide by law for the operation and regulation of sports betting…[and] betting facilities…”

What HR 380 Isn’t

It is important to understand that HR 380 is not a legal framework for a potential sports betting industry. The write-up discusses “licensed betting facilities” presumably at brick-and-mortar locations, but it involves no path or strategy to choosing these locations.

The bill also hints at using tax revenues on sports betting as a “supplement” for educational initiatives in the state, though it establishes no basic tax rates or distribution models. Interestingly, the scope of the bill is exceedingly limited, clearly stating that “all other forms of gambling shall remain prohibited” in Georgia.

Many proponents of sports betting are also quick to point out that HR 380 makes no reference to “online”, “Internet”, or “mobile” sports betting.

Is Online Betting Coming To Georgia?

Because HR 380 neglects to include any language in line with an Internet-based, mobile-accessible sports betting product, the assumption has been that Georgia legislators are against the practice.

However, this seems premature, as the bill does not attempt to lay out specifics of sports betting implementation. If HR 380 is passed, Georgia will then be able to legally establish sports betting regulations. What those regulations would ultimately be is currently unknown.

There is a strong likelihood that sports wagering in Georgia would be Internet-based as well as land-based. Georgia is actually one of only a few states that operates an iLottery system, which is a good indication that lawmakers are aware of the greatly increased reach that Internet access affords to gamers statewide.

More participation means more tax revenue for the state, and that is the primary driving force behind any effort to legalize sports betting. As such, if HR 380 gets the votes to legalize sports wagering in Georgia, domestic online betting can’t be far behind.

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