GA Higher Education Committee Finally Schedules Sports Betting Hearing

Written By Steve Schult on March 11, 2024 - Last Updated on March 12, 2024
A picture of an hourglass for a story about a Georgia House committee finally hearing the sports betting bill after it was idle for nearly six weeks.

After waiting more than a month, the House will discuss a Senate bill to legalize sports betting.

On Monday evening, the House Higher Education Committee added SB 386 to its agenda for its next meeting. The 25-member committee will discuss the legislation Tuesday morning at 10 a.m.

Of the four Senate bills on the agenda, SB 386 is the only one that doesn’t directly deal with education.

However, under the bill, a Georgia sports betting industry would help fund Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship, a merit-based scholarship program funded by the Georgia Lottery.

Time is of the essence for SB 386

Sen. Clint Dixon, the main sponsor of the legislation, filed the bill at the start of the 2024 legislative session. The Georgia Senate passed the bill by a 35-15 margin on Feb. 1.

As a result, SB 386 was sent to the lower chamber for discussion and an eventual vote. The House referred it to the Higher Education Committee.

But that’s where the bill sat for nearly six weeks. Then, the committee made a last-second addition and will discuss sports betting on Tuesday morning.

With how much time has passed since they received it, the House doesn’t have much time left to pass a bill. The Georgia legislative session ends on March 28, leaving just 16 days between the first House discussion and the deadline to pass it.

Expect tax revenue to be the center of the discussion

The Higher Education Committee is focused on issues surrounding Georgia colleges and universities. Thus, don’t expect members to debate sports betting regulatory issues.

Instead, it’s more likely they debate how much revenue sports betting will generate. And how much that could help the HOPE Scholarship fund.

During Senate hearings, Dixon told his colleagues that Georgia sports betting should generate $100 million in new annual tax revenue. In other words, Georgia’s education funds could receive an extra $20 million.

Long road to legalization ends with voter approval

If the committee passes the bill, it would probably be referred to another committee to discuss other aspects of the legislation. Then, it could head to a floor vote.

It would head to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk if the Senate gives it the green light.

But voters would get the ultimate final say. SB 386 would amend the state constitution to allow sports betting. Amendments require a ballot initiative, meaning the issue would be in front of Georgia voters this fall.

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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