Georgia Senate Passes Sports Betting Bill, But Requires Voter Approval

Written By Matthew Bain on February 1, 2024
Image of Georgia Capital, where on Thursday the Senate approved a GA sports betting bill but required voter approval

Legal sports betting in Georgia is a whole lot closer to reality now than it was earlier this week.

Senate Bill 386, which would authorize sports betting in Georgia, passed through the State Senate by a 35-15 vote late Thursday morning. However, senators also voted to add an amendment that requires approval via a voter referendum in the upcoming November election. Originally, SB386 would have bypassed the need for voter approval.

The bill now advances to the House of Representatives. If it passes in the House, it will be sent to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature.

“Let’s let people vote and decide,” said Sen. Carden Summers, who supported the bill’s passage with the voter referendum amendment.

No more options that wouldn’t require voter approval at the polls

SB386 is one of two sports betting bills in the Georgia Senate, and it was the only one receiving industry support. That was likely because SB386 originally would have legalized online sportsbooks without the need for a ballot initiative, compared to the other sports wagering bill, Senate Bill 172, which required voter approval during an election.

The writer of SB172, Sen. Bill Cowsert, introduced the amendment for a voter referendum.

“It’s sneaky to try and circumvent the voters of the state of Georgia. I don’t understand why we would want to do that,” Cowsert said.

With Cowsert’s amendment tacked onto SB386, this will likely be the only sports betting bill with any movement this legislative session.

So, it appears the only way Georgia will launch legal sportsbooks is if residents vote for it at the polls this November.

$100 million in tax revenue, with 20% to pre-K and the HOPE Scholarship

Sen. Clint Dixon, the author of SB386, told fellow senators his bill would generate $100 million in tax revenue.

The bill would tax sports betting revenue at 20%. It would allow for 16 sportsbook licenses, with nine going to the state’s professional teams, a Georgia-based racetrack, a professional golf tournament or tour, and the Georgia Lottery. The remaining seven would go to entities chosen by the Georgia Lottery.

The license application fee would be $100,000, with a $1 million annual renewal fee. From the overall tax revenue, 20% would go toward funding pre-K and the HOPE Scholarship, a merit-based scholarship program funded by the Georgia Lottery.

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Matthew Bain

Matthew Bain is currently the Content Manager at Catena Media's national online lottery site, PlayiLottery. He used to be the News Content Manager at Catena Media, overseeing news content for the network's highest-priority regional sites. With sports gambling in Georgia gaining traction in 2024, PlayGeorgia was one of his focuses. Prior to joining Catena Media in 2022, Matthew won 10 statewide and national journalism awards during six years as a reporter and editor for the USA TODAY Network. Matthew's work primarily appeared in the Des Moines Register, but he was also featured in the Detroit Free Press, Indianapolis Star, Arizona Republic, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and USA TODAY. Throughout his career, Matthew's bylines have also appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Seattle Times, and Orange County Register.

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