Georgia Senate Passes Two Online Sports Betting Bills

SR 135 and SB 142 have cleared the Georgia Senate, which means that the state could see the legalization of online sports betting by 2023.

Georgia Could See Legalization of Online Sports Betting

Georgia is making decisive steps toward the legalization of online sports betting. However, the process will take longer than proponents had initially hoped for and will certainly not be finalized this year.

Last week, the Georgia Senate successfully pushed forward two pieces of legislation that aim at establishing sports betting in the state. Senate Resolution 135 and Senate Bill 142 cleared the Senate with overwhelming support and are moving forward for consideration in the House.

Legalization Through Direct Constitutional Amendment

SR 135, which passed with a 41-10 vote from the Senate, seeks to legalize online sports betting by directly amending Georgia’s Constitution. Should the resolution pass the House as well, it would define sports wagering as a game played through the state lottery. This would certainly streamline the creation of appropriate infrastructure, given that lottery is already a legal form of gambling in the state.

However, SR 135 comes with two important caveats: a state vote and time. To amend the Constitution, Georgians would have to vote on the matter during the general elections in 2022. If the public approves, which is not a given, then sports betting would be legalized by January 2023.

SB 142 covers the regulatory aspect of online sports betting. The bill passed with a 34-17 vote and covers legal age, licensing, operational fees, and taxes. Should the bill pass, it would introduce a legal age of 21 to engage with any form of online sports betting and ban collegiate sports betting entirely.

SB 142 would clear the way for a total of six online sports betting licenses, each with a $ 10,000 application fee and a $ 100,000 annual operating fee. In addition to this, revenue would be taxed at 16%. A share of the tax revenue would go to college scholarships and healthcare in rural areas.

Legalization Might Prove Double-Edged Sword

The documents have drawn both support and opposition, as was expected. According to Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, legalization would help weaken the gambling black market. Mullis, who sponsored both bills, said that Georgians spend over $ 4 billion per year on illegal sports betting. Legalization would allow the state to at least regulate the market.

Proponents also stress that regulation and taxation could infuse millions of dollars into the state coffers. According to the Georgia Budget Office, a 16% tax revenue could generate upwards of $38 million in the first fiscal year alone. 

However, critics warn that legalization could lead to a spike in problem gambling. The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) shares this sentiment. The council is adamant that gambling addiction figures will inevitably spike up as online sports betting becomes more accessible throughout the US.

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