First Georgia sports betting bill of 2024 advances out of committee

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Last year, Georgia lawmakers proposed a number of bills attempting to bring sports betting to the state, none of which made it across the finish line. This year, the legislature will try again.

The first attempt, SB172, already advanced out of the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee this week. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Cowsert, is a second effort by the lawmaker after failing with a bill under the same number last year.

This bill would legalize online and retail sports betting via a constitutional amendment and would require not only a two-thirds majority in each chamber but also a voter referendum. Some, including Georgia sports teams, believe there is a way the Georgia Lottery can expand gaming to include sports betting without taking it to the ballot, but Cowsert isn’t taking any chances and wants to avoid a potential legal challenge after the fact.

With only a 40-day session, Georgia lawmakers will need to work quickly in order to pass a bill this year.

Cowsert’s proposed legislation would create a group called the Georgia Gaming Corporation, under which the Georgia Sports Betting Commission would regulate and oversee sports betting. The Georgia Lottery would have the ability to offer online sports betting through a single skin.

Cowsert’s proposal would license no fewer than six online operators to enter the state and pay a $1 million annual license fee to operate. There are no maximum number of licenses attached to the bill but one of the six licenses must go to the lottery.

The state would tax most sports bets at a rate of 20%. However, in a landmark move, Cowsert’s bill would impose a higher tax rate on bets that generally yield higher returns for the sportsbook. The bill explicitly names parlays, props and live betting as categories with a 25% tax rate.

The bill would also explicitly prohibit college prop bets.

Other lawmakers are expected to put forth gambling bills this session. If other options do not include a constitutional amendment, they could pass with a simple majority in each chamber as opposed to a two-thirds vote.