As sports betting continues to spread throughout the US, one of the more unlikely states to host a sports betting market could be moving towards legalisation.
Lawmakers in Georgia’s House of Representatives are set to consider a new bill that could potentially legalise mobile sports betting in the southern state. House Bill 86 has been sponsored by six state representatives and is focused on amending existing law, specifically Chapter 27 of Title 50 of the Official Code of Georgia through the addition of a new section on sports betting.
The bill, which is also known as the Georgia Lottery Mobile Sports Wagering Integrity Act, will face lengthy consideration but if it is passed into law, it is envisaged that the state Lottery Corporation would assume oversight of the new sports betting market. Their authority would also extend to the issuing and management of sports betting licences.
The proposed bill allows for at least six licences to operate in Georgia. Companies applying for a licence would have to pay a $50,000 non-refundable fee at the time of their application, as well as a a $900,000 annual charge throughout the time of their license. The tax rate for licencees is proposed as 16% of adjusted gross sports wagering income, which would be payable on a monthly basis.
The bill provides for tax income generated from legal sports betting in the state to go towards the HOPE educational scholarship initiative, along with a number of pre-school programs in the state.
Other restrictions include the rules that players would need to be at least 21 years old in order to place a legal sports bet in Georgia. Although wagering would be permitted across all professional sports events, including esports, it will not be possible to bet on college events.
HB 86 includes a number of the same proposals as HB 903 an existing bill that was put forward during last year’s legislative session. Although it was approved by the House, it made no progress in the Senate. That bill had an unusual journey, beginning as a piece of law focused on traffic citations before being changed to include sports betting. The propoised licensing fees were the same as with HB 86, but there was a higher tax rate of 20% on adjusted gross sports wagering income.
Although sports betting is not legal in neighbouring Alabama, it is under active consideration in three of the other states bordering on Georgia, including Florida, and there is a newly launched sports betting sector in Tennessee to the north, which has been attracting sports betting customers from Georgia. The state is also facing a multi-billion dollar budget deficit, and any additional revenue to support public projects would provide some relief to the state coffers.