Georgia Senate Committee Approves Sports Betting Bill

In a significant development for the state of Georgia, a state Senate committee has given a resounding approval to legislation that seeks to legalize sports betting in the state. The Senate Bill 386 received an 8-2 vote, passing the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee, signaling a potential turning point for the state’s gambling laws.

Sponsored by Sen. Clint Dixon (R-Buford), SB 386 is the second sports gambling bill to be filed in the chamber in recent times. The key difference with this bill is that it does not require a voter referendum to pass a constitutional amendment permitting sports betting. This sets it apart from the previously advanced SB 172, which did entail the need for a voter referendum.

One of the main arguments in favor of SB 386 is that it would not necessitate a constitutional amendment. Sen. Dixon clarified that all the funds generated from sports betting would go towards funding pre-K and HOPE scholarships, and therefore, there is no need for a constitutional amendment.

Support for the bill has been voiced by various quarters, including the Metro Atlanta Chamber and Atlanta’s professional sports teams. According to Nick Fernandez of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the bill would be a “win for Georgia.”

However, concerns have been raised by opponents of the bill who fear that it could be declared unconstitutional. They argue that when voters approved the lottery in 1992, they likely did not anticipate authorizing sports betting. There are also concerns about the potential negative impact of gambling addiction and personal financial losses.

The bill, known as the “Georgia Lottery Game of Sports Betting Act,” would specifically enable online wagering and would tax gamblers’ winnings at 20%. It would allow for up to 16 licenses, with the state’s professional sports teams and other sporting entities being eligible to partner with operators. The state lottery would also be permitted to hold a license and award licenses to operators through a public procurement process.

The bill sets the requirement for sports betting to commence in the state no later than January 31, 2025 and would be limited to adults aged 21 and over. If the bill continues to navigate through the legislative process successfully, it could mark a significant shift in Georgia’s gambling landscape.

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