Georgia Turns to Online Sports Betting to Close Budget Gap

Lawmakers in Georgia have pitched a house bill designed to enable online sports betting in the state. The move will hopefully provide funding for educational programs and scholarships.

Online Sports Betting in Georgia Again up for Discussions

Georgia lawmakers will try to put sports betting back on the table this year, with the Senate Special Judiciary Committee voting to amend House Bill 903 on Friday. HB 903 should allow online sports betting brands, such as DraftKings and FanDuel to expand into the state, operating under the state’s lottery umbrella.

Pitched by the Democrats-dominated committee, the future of betting bill rests with the Senate, which is fully controlled by Republican senators. However, Sen. Burt Jones, a Republican from Jackson, seemed to like the idea, as he commented on the potential of sports betting, arguing that this could be an additional $60 million for the state’s coffers.

He further noted that the amount could be much higher. Presently, lottery proceedings are spent to boost the Hope Scholarship program, which helps gifted students go to college and subsidizes preschool classes all throughout Georgia. Should sports betting be introduced, the money allocated to schools could increase, with Georgia also looking to take care of a gaping $2.6 billion budget deficit, one of the smallest in the country.

Senator Jones also cautioned that preschool and college scholarship programs are bound to catch up with lottery proceedings in the sense that an additional revenue source would be necessary to make them financially feasible. Jones outlined two scenarios ahead that would make the program viable:

“The only way to keep that program viable for years to come is to do one of two things – cut cost or find ways to generate more revenue dollars.”

Changing the Constitution No Longer a Prerequisite

While most states have had to pass constitutional changes to enable sports betting and other gambling, Sen. Jones has argued that Georgia’s residents have already endorsed gambling when they voted for the state’s lottery. Now, online gambling could be added to the lottery as an extension, Sen Jones added.

With sports betting gathering momentum in the United States – some 20 states have legalized it – Georgia could benefit from a potentially big source of revenue. In March, though, a lawyer for the General Assembly cautioned that a vote would be necessary.

One vote should be in the house where the introduction of online sports betting would need to be approved by two-thirds of all representatives. Once that is done, a referendum vote would be necessary. Ideally, lawmakers and HB 903 want to see people able to place bets from their phones available to anyone who is of the legal age, 21 or older.

Sen. Jones has argued that the addition of online sports betting will be both well-timed and in line with what the lottery already offers in the form of different gambling games online.

Besides, the proposal is also backed by several professional teams in the state, including the Falcons, Braves, Hawks, and Atlanta United.

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