Georgia Legislature Introduces Separate Sports Betting Bills

Georgia is wasting no time in an effort to finally approve sports betting. Each chamber has their own bill, and supporters of each bill say tying it into the lottery gets around a constitutional amendment.

Georgia Legislature Introduces Separate Sports Betting Bills

As February approaches March, Georgia has separate bills floating around the legislature to legalize sports betting, one in each chamber. And underneath the two bills lies the specter of a constitutional amendment.

The lawmakers in favor of the proposed bill say no amendment is required since it’s tied to the existing lottery. Those opposed say it’s a crap shoot waiting for a lawsuit. A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers and a majority of the public in a referendum.

“This legislation would legalize responsible sports betting in Georgia and generate additional revenue for education under the Georgia Lottery,” said Marshall Guest, the chamber’s senior vice president of public policy and public affairs.

House Bill 380 limits activity to sports betting only while Senate Bill 57 includes horse racing as part of the mix, with authorization for three tracks across the state, according to the Associated Press.

If successful, it would mark the first time since passage of the lottery in 1992 that the General Assembly has had a successful vote when it comes to gambling.

Some lawmakers believe voting no is delaying the inevitable, as 34 states now have some type of legalized sports betting.

One bill has two types of licensing. Type 1 involves 16 total online sports betting licenses, including to pro sports teams, the Masters golf tournament, the Professional Golfers’ Association, the owners of Atlanta Motor Speedway and the Georgia Lottery Corp. itself.

That would leave seven licenses for sportsbook operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel. Type 2 features in-person betting to operators of coin-operated amusement machines, typically found in convenience stores, according to Capitol Beat News Service.

Type 1 or 2 would pay 15 percent of their adjusted gross incomes to the state in the form of a “privilege tax” that would fund education in Georgia.

Each bill claims it passes muster with the constitution because they do not violate a prohibition on casinos or pari-mutuel wagering. To get around the pari-mutuel issue, the races would feature fixed odds racing, where the house takes the risk, not the bettor.

Former state Supreme Court Justice Harold Melton authored an opinion piece for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce in support of this view.

“Based on my review of the relevant law, the original public meanings of applicable terms and the historical context of those terms,” Melton wrote in an opinion for the chamber.

The bill sets out penalties for violators and features requirements for contributions to treat problem gamblers. Unlike the House bill, the Senate version would not allow betting operators to deduct credit for free bets given to gamblers.

The Chamber and Atlanta’s pro sports teams support the House bill.

If one of the bills makes it across the finish line, Governor Brian Kemp has agreed to sign the bill if it comes on his desk.