Georgia is advancing a bill that could lead to the legalization of sports betting in the state. House Bill 86 will now stand scrutiny in the House of Representatives.
A Proposed House Bill Wants to Legalize Sports Betting in Georgia
A bill seeking to legalize sports betting in the State of Georgia and establish a clear-cut tax framework is now advancing in the State House. According to House Bill 86, the Georgia State Lottery would stand to benefit from the extra revenue should the measure pass, although, opponents argue that a constitutional amendment may be necessary first.
The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee cleared HB 86 in a Tuesday vote with a strong majority of 20-6 and the draft proposal is now heading to the House for further discussion.
Should it succeed, the Georgia Lottery Corp. would be able to allocate at least six licenses to company that are interested in setting up a sports betting shop in the state. The draft law envisages a clear-cut taxation model in which the Lottery claims a share of the net revenue generated by the companies.
Tax Revenue Would Boost Scholarship Funds
The proposed rate is 14%, albeit some legislators have argued that even a 10% rate would be sufficient to start bringing in significant tax dollar to the state. The biggest issue right now is underfunded HOPE college scholarships and state subsidies for prekindergarten classes, as well as child care, and gambling revenue may be a way to fix this.
According to Committee Chair Ron Stephens, approving sports betting in the state at 10% tax rate could bring as much as $42 million annually to the state and help offset some of the funds shortage in the educational sector.
This will come apart from a license fee worth $900,000 for a year. The bill is also enjoying the backing of major sports franchises in the state which are looking into the proposal with expectation and touting it as a positive development for the state.
Georgian Are Betting Offshore
According to Stephens, Georgia is already losing millions on sports betting, as state residents are traveling out to other jurisdictions or turning to offshore sports betting outright.
He cited a report by the American Gaming Association (AGA) which has been sounding the alarm about the prosperous offshore betting segment for a few years now, and cautioning that unless regulated betting options are introduced closer to home, residents would continue to turn to offshore solutions. A trend, that has been disrupted by legal sports betting, AGA claims.
Stephens also felt that the Georgia Lottery Corporation is the right organization to offer sports betting and take over the activity. Should the bill clear, residents who are at least 21 years of age would be allowed to bet. Out-of-state non-residents may be allowed to bet as long as they are on the territory of the state.
Specific prop bets and college events may be off limits, however, but these details would be established after HB 86 is ratified, and if it is ratified. Opponents in the meantime have chimed in that embracing sports betting would lead to higher incidence of gambling addiction and lead to social harm.
Tackle Gambling Addiction
Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s Mike Griffin has cautioned that introducing legal sports betting would lead to predatory practices in the state and just groom children for gambling themselves one day.
While these concerns have merit, sport betting has been legalized in 21 states already – or in the process of being legalized in the very least – without counting the District of Columbia. In none of those jurisdictions, the incidence of gambling addiction has increased as a result.