Sports Betting Bill May Soon Come to a Vote in Georgia’s Full Senate

This Thursday, a Georgia Senate committee revived a proposal to legalize sports betting as part of a bill, which originally sought to designate the Southeast Soap Box Derby in Lyons as the state’s official Soap Box Derby. The future of the proposal is still unclear, but if all goes as planned, online sports betting could be made legal in 2024 at the earliest.

The Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee introduced reforms to House Bill 237, seeking to legalize online sports betting in Georgia. The proposal came after previous attempts to regulate the industry earlier this year failed to pass out the crossover day.

Key Provisions of the Sports Betting Bill

Now, senators bring back to life plans to legalize sports betting as part of a bill linked to the Southeast Soap Box Derby in Lyons. House Bill 237 could soon enter the full Senate after it passed the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee on a vote of 8-1.

If the proposed piece of legislation becomes law, the Georgia Lottery Corp. will be the one in charge of administering sports betting. The objective of the bill is to legalize only sports betting but not horse race betting and physical betting shops. This way, the bill does not violate the state’s ban on casinos and pari-mutuel betting, which means no constitutional amendments will be needed for the measure’s implementation.

The proposed measure would ban the use of credit cards for gambling transactions in an effort to minimize gambling problems. Besides, punters would be allowed to wager on professional and college sporting events, but betting on high school competitions would not be permitted.

Operators would be taxed at 22% – a compromise solution to the previous 25% tax proposed by the House and the 20% levy suggested by the Senate. The proposal would be signed into law if approved by the state House, state Senate, and Gov. Brian Kemp.

Opinions on Online Sports Betting Proposal are Polarized

Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones supported the proposal, explaining that the Senate has to finally decide whether to legalize sports betting or not. Mr. Burt explained that the revenue from online sports betting could be used to boost the lottery-funded Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) scholarship.

Experts claim that by legalizing online sports betting, officials will stop the outflow of money to neighboring states that have already added the new form of gambling to their markets. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp also endorsed the bill. Billy Hickman, a Republican from Statesboro, shared that he relies on people in other states to place bets on sports and horse racing on his behalf. He added that this is a great way to deliver more revenue to state coffers.

But not everyone welcomed the proposal to legalize online sports betting in the state of Georgia. Some senators claim that the measure will not succeed simply because it was sneakily included in a bill intended to designate the Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby as the state’s official competition.

On the other hand, anti-gambling campaigners and opponents of the proposed gambling expansion say that gambling is addictive and fuels criminal activity. Besides, they claim that voters did not think that sports betting would ever be a part of the lottery when they approved it in 1992.