House Committee Shows Little Urgency In Passing GA Sports Betting Bill

Written By Steve Schult on March 12, 2024 - Last Updated on March 13, 2024
A picture of a clock fading away for a story about how the House Higher Education Committee displayed a lack of urgency to pass a Georgia sports betting bill.

The fate of sports betting in Georgia is in the hands of a House committee. Unfortunately for sports betting advocates, the committee doesn’t seem worried about taking action on the bill.

The House referred SB 386 to the Higher Education Committee more than a month ago. However, the 25-member committee didn’t discuss the bill until Tuesday morning.

Members ended the March 12 meeting without a vote and indicated there wouldn’t be one soon. The current legislative session ends in just 16 days on March 28.

‘To be clear: There will not be a vote on this item’

Sen. Clint Dixon, the bill’s author, started the hearing by sharing details about the Georgia sports betting bill. Then, committee members heard brief testimony for and against the legislation from industry officials and religious group representatives.

Lastly, Chairman Rep. Chuck Martin then adjourned the meeting without a vote. Martin added that the committee may continue discussing SB 386 at the committee’s March 13 meeting.

But, Martin cautioned, there would also not be a vote on the bill in the committee’s next meeting.

“We have a lot of work to do on this measure as a committee,” Martin said. “This may be part of the agenda (tomorrow) but, to be clear, there will not be a vote on this item.”

The Higher Education Committee is tasked with approving the bill because, like money from the Georgia Lottery (which would also operate and regulate sports betting in the state), the majority of tax revenue from sports wagering would go to the HOPE Scholarship Program. The program provides Georgia students with financial assistance to go to college.

Differences between SB 386 and previous House sports betting bill

The Georgia Senate passed SB 386 on Feb. 1, then later in February passed a resolution requiring a constitutional amendment to allow sports betting in the state. If the House passes the bill, and Gov. Brian Kemp signs it, voters will have the final say in November.

Last year, House members failed to pass HB 380, which like Dixon’s bill, would’ve legalized sports betting. Dixon appeared before the committee to explain how his proposal differs from last year’s failed legislation.

Both bills would grant up to 16 sports betting licenses. Eight would be tethered to the state’s pro sports teams and organizations and the Georgia Lottery would get another. The remaining seven would be untethered and awarded to the highest bidder.

SB 386 calls for a 20% tax rate on sports revenue instead of HB 380’s 25% rate. Last year’s house bill set annual licensing fees for untethered licensees at $750,000. Dixon explained that SB 386 would require a $1 million annual licensing fee from all license holders.

Dixon also answered a few questions about SB 386 from committee members. While there wasn’t any debate, the Senator suggested he would be open to suggested amendments. Those included potentially providing funding for free school lunches, raising the tax rate to 25% and including daily fantasy sports operations in the bill.

DFS operators lobby for inclusion in SB 386

Last month, House members Ron Stephens and Trey Kelley introduced HB 1329, which would officially legalize and allow for regulation of DFS operators. DFS is not explicitly illegal or legal in Georgia and several companies currently operate in the state.

A few Higher Education Committee members inquired about including DFS in the current sports betting legislation to streamline the process. DFS representatives appeared at the committee’s March 12 meeting to similarly lobby for its inclusion in SB 386.

DFS operator PrizePicks is headquartered in Atlanta. A couple of committee members mentioned it would be good for DFS to be a part of SB 386 because it would support a homegrown company. Stuart Wilkinson, PrizePicks’ director of government affairs, said amending the bill with DFS considerations could add $40-$60 million in additional tax revenue annually.

“We see this as a model piece of legislation that we could take to the rest of the United States,” Wilkinson said.

Kayla Lott, executive director of the Coalition for Fantasy Sports (which comprises PrizePicks, Betr and Underdog Fantasy), also appeared at the meeting to encourage a DFS amendment for SB 386.

“The legislation before us in its current form does not ensure that Georgia fantasy sports fans will be able to continue to play the games they love,” Lott said. “We thank the sponsor for his willingness to look at the issue. We look forward to working with all the stakeholders in support of inclusion of a fantasy sports regulatory framework to ensure Georgia’s fantasy sports fans are protected and companies can be good economic partners to the state.”

Photo by PlayGeorgia
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Steve Schult

Steve stays on top of all things related to the national gaming industry. He is also a veteran of the gambling world. The native New Yorker started covering high-stakes tournaments in 2009 for some of poker’s most prominent media outlets before adding the broader U.S. gaming market to his beat in 2018.

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