GA House Committee Hints At Sports Betting Vote As Session End Looms

Written By Mike Breen on March 26, 2024 - Last Updated on March 27, 2024
A picture of a yes/no vote for a story about a possible vote on Georgia's sports betting bill.

Sports betting legislation passed by the Senate at the start of February still sits in the Georgia House’s Committee.

On Monday, the Georgie House Higher Education Committee members discussed the legislation – Senate Bill 386 and the accompanying Senate Resolution 579 – for the third time this month. There was no vote to move the legislation out of committee. However, members suggested they could vote on the legislation at the committee’s next meeting on Wednesday, March 27.

If the committee passes the legislation, the bills would go to a full vote on the House floor. Thursday is the final day of the General Assembly’s 2024 session. If passed, the bill would go to Gov. Brian Kemp. If he signs it, it would go on the November ballot for Georgia voters to decide.

Latest legislation raises tax rate on operator revenue to 25%

The first Georgia sports betting legislation was introduced in 2020. The bills failed to gain traction. The next year, the Senate passed sports wagering bills twice. However, both got stuck in the House. Measures in 2023 failed to advance out of either chamber of the Georgia General Assembly.

Rep. Marcus Wiedower, who worked on similar legislation in the House, reminded members that the legislation had been heavily debated.

The latest change to the legislation increased the tax rate on sports betting revenue from 20% to 25%, Wiedower said. He also said the updated legislation removed a provision that would have allowed sportsbook operators to deduct promotional spending from the gross taxable revenue reported.

Wiedower said he felt this was the perfect time to put sports betting on the ballot.

“The (constitutional amendment) is putting this to the Georgia voter. I cannot think of a better time to gauge the true interest (in sports betting) in the state of Georgia than a presidential election. There’s no greater turnout than that of a presidential election. If I’m wrong and Georgians don’t want this, no harm, no foul.”

Committee members ask for more revenue for pre-K, HBCUs

Wiedower answered committee members’ questions about the latest legislation version, mostly regarding revenue distribution. As legislation currently stands, the majority of tax revenue from sports wagering would go to the state’s merit-based HOPE Scholarship Program and limited pre-kindergarten funding.

At Monday’s meeting, committee members also inquired about provisions that would provide revenue for needs-based tuition aid for higher education, fully funding the state’s pre-K programs and additional funding for the state’s historically black colleges and universities.

Wiedower said he is open to potentially adding other interests in the disbursement of sports betting revenue. But, he said, it’s just not possible to get everyone’s concerns into the legislation.

“I think when we crack the door open to a host of ideas, the number of suggestions that can come from 180 people are endless. I think if you look at our budget that passes almost unanimously every year, the bulk of our funds go to education. That’s exactly what this does.”

Two-thirds majority vote required to pass legislation

Passed by the Senate on Feb. 1, SB 386 lays out the regulatory framework for sports betting and outlines how the industry would function in the state. SR 579, which passed in the Senate a few weeks after SB 386, would add an amendment to the state’s constitution enabling SB 386.

In Georgia, residents must vote to approve constitutional amendments.

SB 386 could pass the House with a simple majority. But because it would lead to a constitutional amendment, passing SR 579 would require two-thirds of the House’s members to vote to approve.

Photo by PlayGeorgia
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Mike Breen

Mike Breen is a contributor for several of Catena Media's regional sites. He focuses on gambling trends and the legislative process. The Ohio-based writer has more than two decades of experience covering sports, news, music, art and culture.

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