The latest attempt to legalize sports betting in Georgia from Rep. Ron Stephens could prove less is more when it comes to legalizing gambling.
Stephens and five other co-sponsors filed HB 86, which would legalize sports betting through the Georgia Lottery.
Stephens attempted to legalize sports betting last year through HR 378, but it might have been a bit ambitious. The referendum asked for the creation of a gaming commission and approval for all gambling the commission could oversee.
That attempt, and another Stephens called his “Hail Mary“ for GA sports betting late in the last session, both failed. One source involved in the process expressed confidence to LSR that the bill has a better chance than last year’s
Georgia sports betting bill details
HB 86 is a straight-forward sports betting bill that would legalize six online-only sportsbooks with remote registration.
The lottery could license fewer than six if there aren’t enough applicants, though that shouldn’t be an issue. Outside of Tennessee to Georgia’s north, Southern states have mostly been left out of the sports betting legalization wave.
That means legal online sportsbooks in Georgia could draw traffic from its other border states of Alabama, South Carolina and, most importantly, Florida.
The bill taxes sports betting revenue at 16%. Sportsbook operators would also pay $900,000 annually to retain its license after a $50,000 application fee.
Problem gambling proposal but no funding
The bill addresses the need for problem gambling services in the state but might not go far enough.
Georgia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities would work with local and national problem gambling organizations. The department would “establish prevention initiatives to reduce the number of individuals with problem gambling or a gambling disorder.”
There’s one problem, though: there’s no funding for such a program in the bill. All tax revenue from lottery operations go toward education in Georgia and sports betting would be no exception:
All of the tax collected under this Code section shall be distributed by the corporation to the general fund of the state treasury for deposit into the Lottery for Education Account established pursuant to Code Section 50-27-13.
Leagues get a piece of GA sports betting too
The major US sports leagues have had their lobbyists busy in all states to get a piece of the sports betting pie. Based on this bill ,it looks like Georgia is no different.
HB 86 would require sportsbooks to use official league data to settle in-play bets. There’s also another interesting nugget for the leagues:
Any sports governing body on whose sporting event the corporation has authorized wagering may also enter into commercial agreements with sports wagering operators or other entities that provide for such sports governing body to share in the amount bet from sports wagering on sporting events of such sports governing body. A sports governing body shall not be required to obtain a license or any other approval from the corporation to enter into such commercial agreements.
Why sportsbooks would willingly choose to give the leagues an integrity fee isn’t clear. In any case, it’s optional.
It’s worth noting all four of Georgia’s professional sports teams called for legal sports betting last year after creating the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance.