Georgia Senate passes sports betting bill with constitutional amendment

Georgia Sports Betting Bill
Image: Shutterstock / Rob Wilson

Regulated sports betting in Georgia is one step closer to becoming a reality.

On Thursday, the Georgia Senate passed Senate Bill 386 by a 35-15 vote. The piece of legislation, introduced on Jan. 24, proposes to offer regulated online sports betting in the Peach State. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Billy Hickman and others, saw the Senate also approve an amendment that requires Georgia voters to approve a constitutional amendment in November. The amendment passed with a 34-7 vote.

“In passing SB 386, we’ve paved the way for responsible and regulated sports betting in Georgia, said Sen. Clint Dixon during Thursday’s floor session. “As our state evolves, it’s crucial to acknowledge the existing landscape with neighboring states already engaging in this activity.”

SB 386 marks the latest attempt by Georgia lawmakers to strengthen the state’s presence in a U.S. commercial gaming industry that generates approximately $52.7 billion in tax revenue for federal, state, and local governments, according to the American Gaming Association.

Regulated betting in Georgia would create additional revenue that is lost to illicit wagering.

“I have a news flash; sports betting is already happening here in Georgia, said Sen. Jason Esteves during the session. “It’s unregulated and easily accessible to minors. It lacks responsible gaming safeguards and generates zero revenue for the state of Georgia.”  

SB 386 proposes to generate revenue from sports betting through a 20% tax rate, which would have a portion of proceeds allocated toward educational initiatives like the HOPE scholarship. The revenue would also bolster the state’s pre-kindergarten programs, which need funding.

“You all know that we need to invest in early learning and that we need to invest to ensure that every child has the opportunity to pay for college,” continued Esteves. “The revenue generated from this bill will give us more opportunities to do that.”

If SB 386 is passed into law, Georgia can offer up to 16 licenses to operators with nine of those licenses to be partnered with major professional sports teams and entities across the state. The entities include Augusta National Golf Course and the Atlanta Motor Speedway. The bill also allows the Georgia Lottery to offer its own standalone sports betting platform to bettors.

SB 386 would require operators to pay a $100,000 application fee to be considered for a license in Georgia, and if approved, the operators must dish out $1 million annually to maintain it.

The bill will now move to the House for consideration. In 2021, a similar piece of legislation was proposed by Sen. Bill Cowsert. It would pass in the Senate but was never heard in the House.