Did The Death Of The Georgia DFS Bill Kill Sports Betting Hopes?

Written By Adam Hensley on March 5, 2024 - Last Updated on March 6, 2024
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The future of legal sports betting in Georgia is anything but a lock.

There has been no movement in the Georgia General Assembly House on Senate Bill 386, which would legalize sports betting in the Peach State. And recently, a bill to legalize daily fantasy sports in Georgia died in the Senate.

Could sports betting suffer the same fate?

Senate kills House-passed bill to legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports

Lawmakers have been trying for years to pass a Georgia sports betting bill. If SB 386, which passed the Senate, makes it through the House, the issue could be before voters in November. That’s a big “if.”

House Bill 1329 would have legalized and regulated daily fantasy sports games in Georgia. After passing the House, the bill died this week in the Senate.

Right now, DFS remains in a legal “gray” area in Georgia. Legislators haven’t written any laws specifically deeming DFS legal or illegal. HB 1329 would have changed that, taxing operators at 20%. Under the bill, the Georgia Lottery Commission would have overseen the DFS industry. The bill would have also made participation illegal for those under 19.

DFS has been a hotly contested topic in some of Georgia’s surrounding states. For instance, Florida gaming regulators claimed Atlanta-based PrizePicks, Underdog Fantasy and Betr offered and accepted wagers that resembled sports betting. Operators had until March 1 to vacate the state.

Similarly, Arkansas recently sent cease-and-desist letters to both Underdog Fantasy and PrizePicks. The state argued that the companies’ pick’em games crossed the line into sports betting.

House Higher Education Committee taking its time with SB 386

The only hope DFS proponents have in 2024 is for DFS legalization to somehow make its way onto SB 386. But that bill has been sitting in a House committee for some time now.

With just over three weeks left in the current legislative session, the fate of sports betting legalization remains in the air. The House Higher Education Committee doesn’t appear to be in a rush to either reject or pass the bill. SB 386 went to the committee in early February.

Rahul Bali, a reporter for WABE News, posted to X on Feb. 14 that he didn’t foresee the committee making a quick decision on the bill.

“There does not seem to be a rush since it has already crossed over to the House.”

SB 386 must pass through the Higher Education Committee because tax dollars from sports betting would go toward education in Georgia. Under the bill, tax revenue would go toward programs like the HOPE scholarship and pre-k education.

Jen Ryan of Sports Betting Alliance told WMAZ-TV that “more than $140 million in additional tax revenue could be allocated for Georgia pre-k education every year.”

If the bill clears the Higher Education Committee, it faces a vote by the entire House. If no amendments are added, residents will have a chance to vote on sports betting in November.

Pessimism is high that sports betting won’t pass in Georgia this year

One source told PlayGeorgia sister site Legal Sports Report that the DFS bill’s outcome will likely be a preview of SB 386’s fate.

“(Sports betting) could become a proxy fight. As a constitutional amendment becomes more and more likely and Dem support less and less likely, it seems it will just end up in the same spot as always,” the source told LSR.

At first, there was bipartisan support for SB 386. Republican state Sen. Clint Dixon introduced the bill, which even garnered the support of co-sponsor and Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler, a Democrat.

Additionally, the SBA – comprised of the country’s most prominent sports betting operators, FanDuel and DraftKings – supported SB 386. The state’s professional sports teams, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Lt. Gov. Burt Jones all backed the bill, too.

Despite that support, LSR wrote that there is still plenty of “pessimism” surrounding the future of Georgia sports betting.

“Multiple industry sources told LSR sports betting will likely suffer a similar fate as previous years.”

The fact that the Higher Education Committee hasn’t discussed SB 386 is a red flag.

One person told LSR that the chances of getting a sports betting bill through the Georgia General Assembly in 2024 were slight at best.

“The stars need to align perfectly for Georgia to pass (legal sports betting) in 2024.”

Photo by PlayGeorgia
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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa, who currently works for the USA Today Network. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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