Georgia Makes Progress On Sports Betting, But With A Big Catch

Georgia lawmakers have selected the path to legal sports betting, and it runs through the state’s 10.6 million residents. To that end, the Georgia Senate passed SR 135 last week, which calls for a constitutional amendment to go before the voters. The Senate also passed enabling legislation, SB 142, that dictates the structure of the prospective industry.

The catch is the referendum in SR 135 wouldn’t go before Peach State residents until November 2022. That means if all goes according to plan, legal Georgia sports betting is some two years into the future, as bettors would likely need to wait until 2023 to place a legal wager at one of the state’s licensed sports betting sites.

Sports Betting Details are Still in Flux

As currently written, SB 142, dubbed the Georgia Lottery Mobile Sports Integrity Act, is a relatively standard piece of sports betting legislation (but it does have some unique quirks) that is structured similarly to Tennessee’s mobile-only, lottery-run industry:

  • Sports betting would be overseen by the Georgia Lottery, which would handle licensing and regulation.
  • Mobile sports betting would be made available to anyone 21 years or older, located in the state.
  • Licensees would pay a $10,000 application fee, with a $100,000 annual licensing fee.
  • The tax rate is set at 16%.
  • No less than six mobile sports betting licenses would be up for grabs.
  • Professional sports teams can partner with licensees.
  • Wagers on Georgia colleges and universities are prohibited.
  • Proceeds benefit needs-based college scholarships, rural broadband, and health care programs.
  • Bettors are deposit limited to $2,500 per month across their betting accounts.

The belief is the bills will head to a conference committee, where the above details will be debated, particularly the license fee and tax rate, which House sports betting legislation pegged at 20%.

“I know this process is just beginning,” Senate Rules Chairman and sponsor of the bill, Jeff Mullis, said. “It’s going to move down the road and there are going to be many changes.”

Mullis made the case on the Senate floor, telling his colleagues (and anyone watching) that estimates indicate two million Georgians are currently betting some $4 billion annually on sports, and all of that money is flowing through illegal channels.

This compromise is essential. Because it’s a constitutional amendment, identical bills must pass the House and Senate with a two-thirds majority vote.

Why Georgia Matters

Georgia is the eighth-most populous state in the nation and would be the third most populous state with legal online sports betting, trailing only Illinois and Pennsylvania.

It would also be just the second but most prominent state in the Deep South (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina) to adopt mobile sports betting.

The Peach State also lacks a land-based gambling industry, which helps explain the state’s mobile-only approach.

All of these factors point to Georgia being a key domino for legal betting in the region, perhaps pushing Florida to act and in the US.

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