Georgia became the latest state to take legal sports betting under consideration last week, joining 19 others with current legislation under review.
State senator Burt Jones (R-25) introduced Senate Bill 403 on February 20, adding the Peach State to a long list of others where sports betting regulation has been taken up by local legislatures.
Under the proposal submitted by Jones, the Georgia Lottery would be tasked with overseeing the licensing and regulatory process for a newly created sports betting industry.
In comments made to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jones pointed to the fact that Georgians are already using illicit offshore sportsbooks as a prime reason to regulate the market:
“It’s going on currently.
And so we feel like – much like the internet sales tax – that it’s just an opportunity for us to capitalize on an entity that’s already operating.”
Following the lead of New Hampshire and neighboring Tennessee – which passed a sports betting bill in May of last year – Jones’ bill would limit sports betting to online / mobile apps only. This provision is based on Georgia’s status as one of the few American states with no commercial or tribally operated casinos.
Other logistical details of SB-403 include a $900,000 annual licensing fee for approved operators, a 10 percent tax on gross adjusted revenue, and a ban on accepting wagers on college sports.
Four Local Pro Franchises Lobby for Legal Sports Betting
While his bill faces an uphill battle in Georgia’s conservative-heavy General Assembly, Jones has already secured the backing of an influential lobbying group representing the state’s four professional sports franchises.
The Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance – which works on behalf of the Atlanta Falcons (NFL), Atlanta Braves (MLB), Atlanta Hawks (NBA), and Atlanta United FC (MLS) – penned a letter to lawmakers last year urging prompt action on sports betting regulation.
In a statement issued by Billy Linville, a lobbyist with the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance, the four teams offered their full support for SB-403:
“Today, Georgians are spending more than a $1 billion in the illegal sports betting market.
It’s now time for them to wager in a fully regulated environment that protects consumers and the integrity of games.”
In a separate statement, Steve Koonin – who serves as chief executive officer of the Hawks pro basketball team – explained why pro franchises are all-in on legal sports betting:
“We’re doing this, not for an economic gain, in the literal sense, but to keep future fans engaged in our sport.
Engagement in the form of watching games on TV and attending them in person.”
Derek Schiller, his counterpart with the Braves of Major League Baseball, also issued a statement outlining the team’s support for Jones’ bill:
“It is something that everybody can get behind, taxing something that is already ongoing and receiving those revenues to the state and allowing the politicians to determine where the dollars then go to.”
Opposition Groups Already Crying Foul Over Legal Betting Apps
Progress on SB-403 will likely be delayed by the state Senate’s Republican leaders, many of whom are already on record as opposing any form of gambling expansion in Georgia.
They’ll be joined by conservative religious lobbyists like Virginia Galloway of the Georgia Faith and Freedom Coalition, who warned the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that legal betting would open a proverbial Pandora’s box of vice:
“Haven’t the Braves and Falcons disappointed Georgians enough already?
Now they’re pushing for a casino in every pocket so more Georgians can get fleeced on their cellphones by gambling interests.”