Rival bills focused on legalizing sports betting have been introduced in the US state of Georgia.
The two bills would both see betting available statewide, adding to the state lottery that was introduced back in 1992. Both would also ensure that betting revenues are directed towards good causes.
State Representative Marcus Wiedower’s House Bill 380 would simply see sports betting added to the existing legislation that allows lottery play.
However, State Senator Bill Cowsert – who sponsored a bill that came close to passing last year – wants to give the public the chance to vote on the expansion of gambling to include betting through Senate Bill 172.
Wiedower’s bill, presented to Georgia’s House Higher Education Committee on Thursday, would authorize sports betting without a constitutional amendment as part of the lottery. The bill does not change how lottery money is allocated, with funds continuing to be directed towards prekindergarten and college scholarship programs already supported by the state lottery.
HB 380 would be limited to 16 licenses, with more than half of those allocated to the state’s pro sports teams and other organizations such as the Masters golf tournament. Type 1 sports betting licenses on offer to pro sports teams and major events would cost $100,000 with a $1m annual licensing fee.
Cowsert, the Georgia Senate Regulated Industries Committee Chairman, is pushing for a constitutional amendment which would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the General Assembly to pass, and then a majority of voters in a statewide election.
Some 50% of proceeds from sports betting would be directed towards needs-based scholarships for public and private colleges, with programmes concerning health care, poverty reduction and problem gambling treatment to also benefit. Cowsert’s SB 172 bill, which reached Senate Read and Referred status earlier this week, allows unlimited licenses.
While Wiedeower’s bill sets a 15% tax rate, Cowsert’s bill sets a basic tax rate of 20%, while it would tax some kinds of bets at 25%.
Cowsert said: “I think it’s only fair if we’re going to make that big of a cultural change in our state to let the people of Georgia decide to do that.”
Last year, a re-introduced bill that would have amended Georgia’s State Constitution to allow for sports betting was passed by the state House, but failed to pass the Senate as the legislative session expired.
Senate Resolution 135 was first introduced in 2021, and was initially passed by the House Committee on Economic Development & Tourism. It was re-introduced in 2022, and had to be passed by the House and the Senate in the current session.