Georgia’s Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee discussed SB 57 — a bill that would legalize sports betting in the state — on Tuesday morning, but the group doesn’t plan to vote on the legislation until next week.
The bill, which was presented Tuesday by Sen. Billy Hickman, would allow for up to 18 mobile sports betting licenses. Retail sports betting kiosks would also be allowed at locations across the state, and the possibility of kiosks at airports was discussed Tuesday. The bill proposes the creation of the “Georgia Sports Betting Commission,” which would handle regulatory duties.
Adjusted sports wagering revenue would be taxed at 20% under the bill. Hickman suggested Georgia could receive $300-400 million annually in tax revenue from legalized sports wagering, although he didn’t provide specifics as to how that number would be reached.
Sen. Hickman that says legalized sports betting in Georgia would generate $300-400 million in annual revenue (for the state? for operators?) and over 8,500 new jobs.
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) February 14, 2023
Hickman’s bill wouldn’t require a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting in the state, which would increase the chances of sports betting being legalized in the near future.
“No constitutional amendment required, just a simple majority by the Senate and by the House,” Hickman said.
Horse racing provision stirs debate
Public comment was allowed at Tuesday’s committee hearing, and a couple groups shared moral objections to increased gambling in Georgia. Others pushed back against bill language about the inclusion of “live, in-person equestrian track racing events.”
Hickman wants to see fixed-odds horse wagering allowed in Georgia, as well as the operation of state-sanctioned racetracks in a jurisdiction that currently has none.
“Horse racing is a sport, just like the Braves, just like the Falcons, just like the Hawks, just like NASCAR, just like The Masters,” Hickman said.
Those speaking against the inclusion of horse racing in the bill cited potential physical harm to the animals involved in the sport. Horse racing will likely be a key point of consideration for committee members in the coming days as they determine how they’d like to vote.
New House bill introduced
HB 380, another bill that would legalize sports betting in Georgia, was introduced on Monday. The legislation would allow for 16 mobile sports betting licenses, as well as five to seven retail sports betting licenses.
Much like SB 57, the bill doesn’t require a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting in Georgia and calls for a legal sports betting launch in Georgia no later than Jan. 31, 2024. HB 380 suggests a tax rate of 15%, which is lower than the 20% proposed tax rate in SB 57. The state lottery would regulate sports wagering.
Georgia’s legislative session lasts through March, giving legislators more than a month to discuss the two sports betting bills. Bills can also carry over from the 2023 legislative session to the 2024 session.