The Regulated Industries & Utilities Committee of the Georgia Senate passed Senate Bill 172, a sports betting bill, on the second day of the current legislative session. The vote, with an 8-3 majority, allows Georgians to place sports bets online or at remote terminals and “kiosks.”
Under the proposed legislation, the state would retain 20% of the gross revenue from most sports bets and 25% from “high-profit” bets, such as live bets during games, Capitol Beat News Service reported. The generated revenue is intended for various state programs outlined in a separate constitutional amendment.
The bill, introduced last year, resurfaced for consideration in the 2024 session, having been tabled in the previous legislative term. The bill’s early presentation in the session stems from its introduction in the prior year.
“This has been a long process. It’s been multiple years we’ve been dealing with these gambling issues,” Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, the committee’s chairman and the bill’s chief sponsor, was quoted as saying in the report.
Cowsert highlighted that approximately three dozen states have legalized sports betting since the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that expanded its legality beyond a few states like Nevada.
Efforts to pass sports betting legislation in Georgia have been ongoing, with previous attempts falling short. Senator Cowsert’s push for a constitutional amendment faced a setback in the previous year, securing 30 votes but falling short of the required 38. In 2023, a bill authorizing sports betting and betting on horse races without a constitutional amendment was also rejected.
The bill proposes the establishment of a seven-member sports betting commission empowered to grant at least six licenses for sports betting operations. Provisions in the legislation aim to safeguard bettors from fraudulent operators and assist problem gamblers in avoiding financial losses, the report said.
Described as an “enabling” bill, Senate Bill 172 fills in the details of an accompanying constitutional amendment. Some committee members raised concerns about passing an enabling bill before the constitutional amendment has been drafted.
Sen. Carden Summers, the committee’s vice chairman, expressed plans to introduce a sports betting constitutional amendment later in the session. Additionally, Sen. Brandon Beach intends to propose a constitutional amendment allowing voters to decide on legalizing casino gambling, pari-mutuel betting on horse racing, and sports betting, as per the report.
The debate continues as some lawmakers question the feasibility of securing the required two-thirds majority for a constitutional amendment. Sen. Matt Brass of Newnan, as the Rules Committee chair, expressed skepticism about the constitutional amendment route, referring to it as a ‘quagmire’ just before the committee’s vote.”