Georgia Rep. Ron Stephens’ sports betting proposal on Tuesday passed through the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee, 20-6, and is now headed to the House floor. Stephens’ HB 86 would allow for statewide mobile sports betting with remote registration, and it appears to allow for professional sports franchises or stadiums to partner with operators to offer sports betting. It was filed in mid-January and scheduled for a hearing last week that was postponed.
The proposal allows for a minimum of six sports wagering operator licenses, sets the tax rate at 16%, sets the minimum age for placing a bet at 21, and names the Georgia Lottery Corporation as the regulator. The operator application fee would be set at $50,000 with a $900,000 annual renewal fee.
The Georgia Lottery Mobile Sports Wagering Integrity Act does not appear to allow for any brick-and-mortar facilities, which would make the state the second to pass such a law. Tennessee in 2019 legalized mobile wagering only, and while it looked like Virginia was on its way to doing the same in 2020, the law there now allows for five physical casinos with sportsbooks, pending local voter approval.
Like Tennessee and Virginia, Georgia does not have a gaming culture. Besides the lottery, gambling is not permitted in the state. And should Georgia legalize this year, it would join neighbors Tennessee (statewide mobile) and North Carolina (available only at two tribal casinos) in its region with legal wagering. Alabama lawmakers are poised to begin discussion sports betting, and a bill has been filed in Florida, but it seems unlikely either will advance quickly this session, due to time constraints and other issues.
It appears pro teams could offer sports betting
The text of Stephens’ Georgia bill certainly makes it appear that professional sports teams or venues could offer sports wagering:
Any sports governing body on whose sporting event the corporation has authorized wagering may also enter into commercial agreements with sports wagering operators or other entities that provide for such sports governing body to share in the amount bet from sports wagering on sporting events of such sports governing body. A sports governing body shall not be required to obtain a license or any other approval from the corporation to enter into such commercial agreements.
Such language shouldn’t be surprising as the pro teams in Georgia have banded together in recent years to lobby for legal sports betting, and as part of that lobbying have indicated they’d want a slice of the action.
— Mississippi Rob (@MississippiRob4) February 1, 2021
There are some concerns in the bill from an operator perspective, including an official league data mandate and a clause that would allow sports governing bodies to request that certain types of bets be disallowed. Such a clause has popped up in legislation in other states, as well.
The bill, which has been assigned to the House Committee on Economic Development and Tourism, also doesn’t allow for operators to deduct promotional credits from gross gaming revenue. Many states do allow for this deduction, but it’s an issue that has come up in states that don’t — Louisiana lawmakers last year discussed the issue.
Louisiana does not allow for the deduction of promotional credits with regard to casino games (sports betting was just legalized there in November and isn’t live), and lawmakers pointed to the fact that neighboring Mississippi does, making Mississippi a more attractive destination for operators. In addition, the tax on promotional credits, the lawmakers said, is an extra burden for operators during the COVID-19 crisis and restrictions.