A bill that would legalize online sports betting in Georgia was officially filed as the state’s 2021 legislative session kicked off a week ago.
HB 86 was filed last Thursday and would allow gamblers 21 or older inside Georgia state lines to wager on professional and collegiate sporting events online. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Ron Stephens, who told local media outlets last month that expanded gambling was a lock to pass in 2021.
The bill received bipartisan support as it was co-sponsored by Rep. Billy Mitchell, Rep. Lee Hawkins, Rep. Shelly Hutchinson, Rep. Matt Dollar and Rep. Al Williams. Of the six sponsors, three are Republican and three are Democrat.
Legislation that would allow for gambling outside of the state lottery would require an amendment to the state constitution, but this bill would allow the lottery to regulate the sports betting market, which would exempt the legislation from the amendment process.
The legislation, known as the Georgia Lottery Mobile Sports Wagering Integrity Act, would tax sports betting companies 16% of their revenue. The taxes collected from sports betting would be used to help fund the HOPE scholarship.
According to a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the legislation is supported by the four professional sports franchises in the state.
“We don’t receive revenue from this,” Atlanta Braves President and CEO Derek Schiller told the AJC. “This is good for our fans, we think, from a fan engagement perspective. But it’s also good for the state because it drives new tax revenue to the state, especially in this unique time that we’re in and going to be recovering from.”
According to Stephens’ estimates, online sports betting would generate about $100 million in revenue. Last month, he said that sports betting is the most likely gambling activity to pass this session because it has the “path of least resistance.”
Outside of the lottery, gambling in Georgia is extremely limited. It is one of the few states in the union without brick-and-mortar casinos.
With states strapped for cash stemming from the COVID-19 lockdowns, many are looking into legalizing gambling for no other reason than increased tax revenue. In just the first few weeks of 2021, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo changed his tune on statewide online sports betting, governors in both Arizona and Kentucky are pushing for sports betting in their state and a sports betting bill was pre-filed in Florida.
If passed in its current form, Georgia would join Tennessee as the only states to offer online-only sports betting.