Georgia Legislature

  • Georgia is looking to become one of the next states in the nation to make wagering on sports legal.
  • Lawmakers have said that the Georgia General Assembly will see a number of gambling bills brought to the floor as the Peach State looks for new sources of revenue.
  • An online and mobile sports betting industry for Georgia may be the most favorable way for the state to legalize the market.

ATLANTAThe Georgia General Assembly will begin their 2021 legislative session on January 11 and lawmakers in the state are already preparing bills that could legalize sports betting.

In 2020, the topic of gambling on sporting events made very little headway among policymakers but that was not for lack of trying.

It’s possible that the subject could have been discussed further had the outbreak of the Coronavirus not stymied the remainder of the session and all focus shifted to dealing with an economy ravaged by COVID-19.

But with the new session less than two weeks away, previous advocates on sports gaming are speaking out in favor of drafting proposals to be heard on the floor. In 2020, one of the main bills in draft that would have legalized the pastime called for an entirely mobile and internet sportsbook industry.

At this time, Tennessee is the only state to be a completely mobile market. Representative Ron Stephens was behind House Bill 570 to get legal mobile sportsbooks in Georgia.

What’s Being Discussed In Georgia

Under GA HB 570, the state would have made the Georgia Lottery the regulatory body for 10 different operating platforms and put a tax rate of 10% on all revenue. This bill was very similar to a mirror image of the legal sports betting industry in Tennessee.

With people in the Georgia General Assembly hoping to find new revenue streams to help their budget deficits, gaming in all of its forms is rumored to be discussed for legalization in the Peach State in 2021. Legal sports wagering is said to be the easiest form of gaming to launch by way of the lottery and the online-only sportsbook format.

“It clearly does not require a constitutional amendment,” said Stephens. “It’s just a matter of us giving the Georgia Lottery Commission direction and authority they already have.”

Making gambling on sports matchups legal in Georgia in nearly any other way would require a constitutional amendment after a public vote on the topic.

First, a bill would need to pass to allow for a vote and then constituents would then wait until November 2021 before they could have their say. From there, the 2022 session would discuss structures that would be drawn up if the public passed the amendment.

And only after all of that took place, construction and the launch of sportsbooks could begin. That could take years when all is said and done.

A completely online and mobile sports betting market run by the lottery could launch as soon as the lottery came up with rules and regulations for operators.

Once operators were licensed, Georgians could wager legally with state sportsbooks. Now, the lottery would need to fully understand the industry which could take them a bit, after all, Tennessee took well over a year but that’s still much faster than going the other route.

Another plus side for this is the research that has shown more sports betting is done with mobile applications than retail venues which could allow the sportsbook industry to amass a great deal of revenue for Georgia.

Of course, there will be bills presented in session that have both retail and mobile sports wagering within them but this way seems like the Peach State’s clearest path to open up a sports betting market with fewer roadblocks.

Looking Ahead

Professional sports teams in the state are also on board to make sports betting in Georgia legal in hopes of increasing their fanbase that has been dwindling over the past few years.

Gambling on sports has become so popular nationwide and a younger audience engages in the pastime, as do people of all ages. But organizations in Georgia want to appeal to a younger audience in an attempt to gain lifelong fans and this might be their way to go about it.

“Increasingly, the cellphone is the primary means of entertainment for younger fans,” said Billy Linville, spokesman for the Georgia Professional Sports Alliance. “The teams have to engage them or they’ll go elsewhere.”

The legislative session in Georgia lasts a total of 40 days’ worth of hearings. A number of gambling bills are expected to be introduced with sports wagering accounting for a handful of them. Lawmakers will begin discussions on January 11 but 2021 could be the year that the Peach State gets a legal sports betting industry.

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