The Georgia Senate recently passed a bill with bipartisan support in a 35-15 vote, allowing the Georgia Lottery to issue up to 16 sports betting licenses. These licenses would be distributed among gaming companies like BetMGM and FanDuel, as well as to sports organizations, such as the PGA, Augusta National Golf Club, Atlanta Motor Speedway, and the state’s major professional sports teams.
The bill also stipulates that gross gaming revenue would be taxed at 20%, with licensing fees and annual fees for independent companies. However, a significant obstacle to the bill’s implementation is the constitutional amendment proposed by Republican Sen. Bill Cowsert. This amendment would require a statewide referendum voted upon by Georgia residents, making it a more difficult path to passage.
Some proponents of the amendment believe it is only fair to allow state voters to decide, as sports betting was not included in the 1992 referendum that authorized the lottery. Additionally, lawmakers are eager to legalize sports betting to generate revenue for public pre-K classes and the HOPE Scholarship program. Currently, funds from the Georgia Lottery support these programs, but sports betting could contribute an additional $100 million per year, providing essential funding for education in the state.
The bill will now move to the Senate, where similar bills have previously faced challenges due to unrelated issues and disagreements. With the constitutional amendment posing a significant hurdle, the hope is that moving the bill to the Senate early will allow representatives to address concerns and come to an agreement before the end of the legislative session on March 28th. Overall, the bill’s passage in the Senate represents a step forward for the legalization of sports betting in Georgia, but significant challenges remain before it can become a reality.