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Georgia Senate Approves Constitutional Amendment for Sports Betting

Robert Linnehan

by Robert Linnehan in Sports Betting News

Updated Feb 28, 2024 · 1:13 PM PST

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  • The Georgia Senate passed a resolution to allow for a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting
  • If the House approves the state’s sports betting bill and constitutional amendment, voters will decide its fate in the November general election
  • The approved resolution also changes how sports betting revenues are distributed in the state

Georgia’s sports betting fate is now in the hands of the House of Representatives and the voters in the Peach State.

The Georgia Senate yesterday passed SR 579, a constitutional amendment for sports betting, by a 41-12 vote, surpassing the necessary three-fifths majority. The resolution is part of an overall package to legalize Georgia online sports betting.

Georgia’s sports betting bill, SB 386, was approved 35-15 by members of the Senate earlier this month.

Sports Betting Triggered by Constitutional Amendment

Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-46) proposed an amendment to bill SB 386 to require sports betting be legalized through a constitutional amendment when it was voted on by the Senate in early February. As it was introduced by Sen. Clint Dixon (R-45), it did not require an amendment and would have been regulated entirely by the Georgia Lottery.

The resolution will allow for the creation of a gaming commission to oversee sports betting in the state. The commission will be “separate and apart from the lottery board,” Cowsert said. However, if the lottery wishes to participate in sports betting, a license will be earmarked for its use.

“This is the politically appropriate thing to do, when you make this type of a major policy shift in the state, to let the people vote. Let them weigh in on it,” Cowsert said.

The approved bill legalizes online sports betting for 16 license holders in the state. The legislation sets the sports betting tax rate at 20% of adjusted gross revenue. Licenses would cost $1 million annually to renew and applicants would have to pay a $100,000 application fee. It would allow for bets on college sports.

The bill accounts for a total of 16 online sports betting licenses, with the numbers breaking down as follows:

  • Five for Georgia professional sports teams (Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta United FC, and Atlanta Dream)
  • One for Augusta National Golf Course
  • One for the PGA Tour
  • One for Atlanta Motor Speedway
  • One for the Georgia Lottery Corporation

The remaining seven licenses will be awarded by the gaming commission.

Tax Revenue Disbursements Modified

The original bill would have funneled nearly all sports betting tax revenues into the Georgia Lottery, which would have been used to fund HOPE Scholarships and pre-kindergarten programs in the state. Cowsert filed his resolution with the following sports betting tax revenue disbursements:

  • 80% into the Educational Opportunity Fund. The fund will support pre-kindergarten programs in the state. Once fully funded, the remaining revenues will go to the HOPE scholarships
  • 15% to a responsible gaming fund
  • 5% to a Sports Promotion Fund to attract major sporting events to the state

The sports promotion fund will be used to attract events such as the Super Bowl, the College Football Playoffs, and FIFA World Cup. Georgia spent nearly $20 million to host Super Bowl LIII, Cowsert said, and a fund such as this will help offset those costs.

“The Olympics is exciting to me. Those are tremendously expensive endeavors to try to land those events here and this will give us a source of funds to do this. All the professional sports franchises are supportive of this provisions,” Cowsert said.

Likely No Sports Betting Until 2025

With the need for a constitutional amendment, the chances of Georgia sports betting launching this year have dwindled to zero if the bill passes. If approved by the house, Georgia voters would have the final say on sports betting legalization during the Nov. 5, 2024, general elections in the state.

The issue of sports betting legality in the state and the most effective trigger has been hotly debated over the past few years. Sports betting has its proponents in Georgia, but it seems as if the party has been split on the question of the necessity for a constitutional amendment.

An amendment likely negates any legal challenges from outside parties if approved, but set the timeline back for launch until 2025 if approved by the House.

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