Second Georgia sports betting bill would bypass voter referendum

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A second bill that aims to legalize sports betting in the state has been filed with the legislature.

SB386, sponsored by a number of lawmakers including Sen. Billy Hickman, proposes to put sports betting under the purview of the lottery and amend the existing Georgia Lottery for Education Act to include sports betting.

This approach would not include a voter referendum, as the lawmakers behind the bill say it would not be expanding existing gambling law, just amending it.

The amended law would establish the Georgia Lottery as the regulator and overseer of sports betting and could allow as many as 16 online sportsbook licensees into the state.

Five of the licenses would go to pro teams in the state from the NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLB and MLS teams. Four more are set aside for golf entities and NASCAR tracks.

That leaves nine licenses that the lottery can dole out as it sees fit via an application process. Interested applicants will need to pay a $100,000 application fee. If given a license, these licenses would pay an annual fee of $1 million. Applicants will have 60 days after the law passes to express interest in a license.

The bill allows for a simultaneous launch no later than Jan. 31, 2025.

The bill comes with a host of co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle.

Hickman proposed a similar bill last year that also included the establishment of legal parimutuel horse racing tracks in the state. The horse element drew criticism from the animal rights set but the bill did manage to make it to the Senate floor before stalling.