Proposed Bill Would Bypass Georgia Voters to Legalize Sports Betting

Written By Dan Holmes on January 26, 2024
Red X over person putting vote in box for story on new GA sports betting bill that would bypass voter referendum

A handful of Georgia State Senators have sponsored a bill that would amend gaming laws to allow the Lottery to issue sportsbook licenses. The change could come as soon as January 2025, but it needs to clear several legislative hurdles.

Supporters of Senate Bill 386 are seeking to avoid the need for a voter referendum on sports betting in Georgia. Instead, the bill would amend existing state gaming law and permit the GA Lottery to regulate the activity. Last year, a similar bill was presented to the State Senate, but it never reached a vote of the full body. The major obstacle for that piece of proposed legislation was the inclusion of language that permitted parimutuel horse race betting.

This is the second sports betting bill currently on the table in Georgia. The other, Senate Bill 172, advanced through the Senate Regulated Industries Committee earlier this month.

Bill would allow for 16 sports wagering licenses

The bill would amend gaming laws to allow the Georgia State Lottery to issue 16 sportsbook licenses. Nine of them would be allocated to professional sports teams in the state, including members of the NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, WNBA, PGA, LPGA, and two for NASCAR. Seven more could be issued to commercial sports betting operators, according to the proposed language in SB386.

SB 386 would allow for sports betting in Georgia on professional and college events, including college sports involving in-state schools. It would not permit player prop bets on college athletics. That vibes with the policies in many states that have legal sports betting currently.

States typically choose one of two regulatory approaches: the establishment of a separate sports betting entity, or placing the responsibility within their lottery division. In Kentucky, for example, that state created a new sports betting division. However, in West Virginia, the state lottery has regulatory purview over sportsbooks. Either way, states must develop regulatory processes that outline what can be wagered on, how sports can be wagered on, and who and how operators apply for and receive licensure. 

Georgia has been slow to add any type of regulated gambling

Establishing new gaming laws in Georgia has been a slow and difficult process. Georgia is one of the few states that does not have land-based casinos, and there are also no legal horse race tracks in the Peach State. The only gaming in Georgia is the state lottery, the multi-state lotteries, like Powerball, and the few riverboat casinos.

Some lawmakers have argued that the Georgia State Constitution must be amended to permit sports betting. Few legislators and political leaders in the state have seemed to want to tackle such a heavy task. But, the dozen State Senators who have co-sponsored SB 386 feel existing law does permit sports betting if their body can push through a bill to allow it, and Gov. Brian Kemp signs it.    

The proposal has bipartisan support. GA State Senator Billy Hickman (a Republican representing District 4) is one of 12 co-sponsors of SB 386. It was Hickman who led efforts in the State Senate last year on the failed sports betting bill. Other sponsors include State Senators Clint Dixon (R, D45), Bo Hatchett (R, D50), Gloria Butler (Democrat, D55), Brandon Beach (R, D21), Derek Mallow (D, D2), John Albers (R, D56), Jason Esteves (D, D6), Sonya Haplern (D, D39), Elena Parent (D, D42), Matt Brass (R, D28), and Lee Anderson (R, D24).

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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a contributor for PlayGeorgia with plenty of experience under his belt. Dan has written three books about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He also has extensive experience covering the launch of sports betting in other states, including Ohio, Massachusetts and Maryland. Currently, Dan is residing in Michigan with his family.

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