Georgia is close to legalizing sports betting with the potential approval of Senate Bill 386, which would issue 16 sports betting licenses in the state. The bill has been advanced by the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee, but its final outcome is still uncertain following last year’s unsuccessful efforts.
Nick Fernandez, a supporter of betting legalization and a member of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, is optimistic that the bill will bring sports betting to Georgia. However, the bill still has several hurdles to overcome, including approval by both chambers and Governor Brian Kemp’s signature. If a constitutional amendment is pursued, it will require two-thirds approval from the House and Senate, followed by a statewide referendum.
The bill has garnered support from some Democrats, while Republican Senator Clint Dixon of Buford supports it on the grounds that the funds generated would support youth education. However, past attempts at betting legalization in Georgia have faced obstacles, with last year’s rejection of sports betting and horse racing without a constitutional amendment.
If the bill passes this time, the state stands to earn 20% of the revenue generated by operators through taxes. The Georgia Lottery would be among the future licensees, with eight licenses also being granted to pro sports interests in the state, including teams such as the Atlanta Braves, Falcons, and Hawks, as well as other major sports organizations like NASCAR and the PGA.
The bill has faced opposition from critics who argue that potential economic benefits are overshadowed by concerns about addiction and the inevitable losses that come with betting. Mike Griffin, a lobbyist for the state’s Southern Baptist churches, likened gambling to “legalized fraud,” claiming that the industry always prevails and individuals cannot win.
The bill’s advocates emphasize potential economic benefits for the state. if the bill passes, the state’s lottery will be tasked with determining who deserves the remaining seven licenses, with a set application fee and annual license fee. Ultimately, the fate of sports betting in Georgia remains uncertain as the bill continues to progress through the legislative process.