State Senate Committee Approves Sports Betting Bill

Wednesday, January 31st, 2024

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A state Senate committee overwhelmingly approved legislation Tuesday legalizing sports betting in Georgia.

Under Senate Bill 386, which the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee passed 8-2, the Georgia Lottery Corp. would award 16 licenses to sports betting operators.

Five licenses would go to Atlanta’s pro sports teams: the Braves, Falcons, Hawks, Dream, and Atlanta United. The Augusta National Golf Club, the Professional Golf Association (PGA), and the Atlanta Motor Speedway would receive one license each.

Seven licenses would be open to sports betting operators through an application process overseen by lottery officials. The lottery corporation also would receive one license.

Twenty percent of the adjusted gross revenues derived from sports betting would go toward Georgia’s HOPE Scholarships and pre-kindergarten programs.

The bill would legalize sports betting without requiring a constitutional amendment. Whether bringing sports betting to Georgia without amending the state’s constitution is legal has been a subject of debate among lawmakers for several years.

A second sports betting measure that does require a constitutional amendment cleared the Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities Committee during the first week of this year’s legislative session.

On Monday, representatives of the Metro Atlanta Chamber and PrizePicks, a daily fantasy sports operator, spoke in favor of the bill.

Nick Fernandez, director of government affairs for the chamber, said the bill would generate an estimated $100 million annually for HOPE and pre-k.

Stuart Wilkinson of PrizePicks told the committee adding fantasy sports to the mix would add another $35 million.

Several spokesmen for faith-based organizations spoke out in opposition to the bill.

“Gambling is basically legalized fraud,” said Mike Griffin, public affairs representative for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. “You can’t win. The industry can’t lose.”

“The disastrous effects of problem gambling are well known and well documented,” added Mack Parnell, executive director of the Georgia Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, the bill’s chief sponsor, said it includes provisions aimed at preventing problem gambling, including ads educating Georgians about the potential pitfalls of betting on sports and “self-limit” tools bettors could use to cap the amount they spend on bets.

The bill has bipartisan backing. Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain, is among the cosponsors.

The legislation now heads to the Senate Rules Committee, which will decide whether to put it before the full Senate.