An amendment to a bill in Georgia is bringing the topic of sports betting legalization in the state back to the table and will need no amendment to the state constitution.
Unclear Chances of Success
The legalization of sports betting was piggybacked on House Bill 237 by the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee on Thursday, seeking to make wagering on sports legal by early 2024 and without asking Georgia voters to amend the state constitution but its chances for success are uncertain.
The amendment came after proposals for sports betting legalization in both the House and Senate failed to pass before the deadline to advance to the opposite chamber but the idea to piggyback sports wagering on the bill is appalling to the bill sponsor, Rep. Leesa Hagan.
House Bill 237 sought to designate the Southeast Soap Box Derby in Lyons as the state’s official soap box derby but Hagan was vocal about her desire for the bill she had sponsored to have no links with sports betting.
Unwanted Association with Sports Betting
“I don’t want my soap box derby to be associated with sports betting,” she said, asking for the soap box derby measure to be removed from the bill. And she is not the only one thinking that such an approach to revive discarded ideas, though legal, can backfire.
Sen. Mike Dugan stated his opinion that the move had “just set sports betting back five years,” explaining that hijacking a soap box derby by putting sports betting on the back of it would surely have a negative impact on those who still have not decided on which side of the fence they should stand, including himself as he would not support the bill.
Committee Chairman Brandon Beach and House Speaker Jon Burns believe otherwise: Beach said that the plan was supported by Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, while Burns left all options on the table by stating that sports betting legalization might not be dead for the year.
New Proposal Details
According to the proposal, the Georgia Lottery Corp, which will administer sports betting, alongside each of Atlanta’s major sports teams, the Braves, Hawks, Falcons, United and Dream, will receive a sports betting license.
The Masters golf tournament, the Professional Golfers’ Association and the owners of Atlanta Motor Speedway will also receive licenses, leaving seven licenses for the likes of DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and other commercial operators – in total, 16 online sportsbooks. There will be no physical sports betting locations.
Sportsbook operators will be taxed at 22%, while tax funds will go to the lottery’s designated beneficiaries, including college scholarships and state-funded preschool.
Backed by former state Supreme Court Justice Harold Melton, supporters of authorizing the lottery with sports betting administration argue that the proposal will not violate the constitutional prohibition of casinos or pari-mutuel betting, while opponents believe that in 1992 when voters approved the state lottery, did not consider sports betting to be part of it.
The amended bill will now head to the Senate for consideration and if approved, will head to the House.