Online Sports Betting Bill Introduced in Georgia Senate

While the bill has a long way to go before it becomes law, it marks another attempt at bringing legal sports betting to the Peach State, one of the shrinking number of holdouts in the U.S.

Last Updated: Feb 1, 2023 11:52 AM ET Read Time: 3 min
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The possibility of legal sports betting is back in play in the Peach State.

Legislation was introduced on Tuesday in the Georgia Senate that proposes to legalize and regulate sports betting sites in the southern state.

Senate Bill 57 would allow between nine and 18 licenses to offer online sports betting in Georgia. Some would be via the Georgia Lottery Corp., which could run a public procurement process to select up to nine service providers to contract with to offer online sports wagering.

Five licenses would be reserved for professional sports teams in the state, such as the Atlanta Falcons, and permits would also be earmarked for the PGA Tour, Augusta National Golf Club (home of the Masters golf tournament), and Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Bettors would have to be 21 or older and physically located in the state to make a wager. Betting on professional and college sports would be allowed, which could be huge for fans of the Georgia Bulldogs.

A 20% tax would apply to adjusted gross revenue generated by online sportsbooks. Tax revenue generated by sports betting would fund educational programs.

S.B. 57 proposes a restricted form of retail sports betting as well, with wager types limited to fixed odds, moneylines, totals, parlays, and point spreads. 

The bill also proposes to create a Georgia Sports Betting Commission to regulate the industry "in a manner that provides continuing entertainment to the public, maximizes revenues, and ensures that sports betting is operated in this state with integrity and dignity and free of political influence."

S.B. 57 has 10 sponsors from both the Democratic and Republican parties, signaling bipartisan support. The legislation would come into effect on July 1, 2023, but no one could apply for a license until four months after the members of the betting commission are appointed.

While the bill has a long way to go before it becomes law, it marks another attempt at bringing legal sports betting to Georgia, one of the shrinking number of holdouts in the United States. The Southeastern U.S. has been a relatively tough nut to crack for the sports-betting industry, as Alabama, Florida Georgia, and South Carolina are all without legal event wagering.

Previous attempts at legalizing sports betting in Georgia have come up short. Moreover, there was another failed gubernatorial campaign by Democrat Stacey Abrams in the fall, which included a platform that supported mobile sports betting.

But S.B. 57 is significant because it appears to seize on a recent interpretation of Georgia law, which is that it may not require an amendment to the state constitution to implement. The former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court recently voiced that opinion, arguing sports betting should be considered an extension of the state lottery.

What now?

“Based on my review of the relevant law, the original public meanings of applicable terms and the historical context of those terms, it is my opinion that sports betting can be legalized as a state-run lottery for educational purposes solely through legislative action,” Melton wrote in a memo obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

That is partly what S.B. 57 proposes to do, although it invites participation from professional sports teams as well. How that is interpreted remains to be seen.

Still, the introduction of sports betting-related legislation was expected in Georgia. Now, it will be up to lawmakers to decide what to do, or what other strings should be attached. 

“I think the potential is great, but nothing's going to fly without inclusion language,” Georgia Rep. Al Williams told Covers recently. “We have to be assured that everybody is going to enjoy this influx.”

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