(The Center Square) — A Georgia state lawmaker has filed legislation to legalize mobile sports betting.
House Bill 380, the “Georgia Lottery Game of Sports Betting Act,” would authorize the Georgia Lottery Corp. to operate and regulate sports betting in the state. Under the proposal, revenue from sports betting would go to educational programs under the Georgia Lottery, including the HOPE Scholarship and Pre-K education.
State senators are considering a separate measure, Senate Bill 57, the “Georgia Sports Betting Integrity Act.” It would allow betting on horse racing.
“HB 380 would allow sports betting to become legal and bring Georgia in line with 36 other states across the country that have already taken this step,” state Rep. Marcus Wiedower, R-Watkinsville, said in an announcement.
“Sports betting is already occurring in our state,” Wiedower added. “Legalizing this activity could generate tens of millions of dollars in additional education funding for our state if properly regulated.”
Wiedower estimates that legalized sports betting could generate roughly $50-75 million in revenue.
“I would be surprised if we did not pass … online sports betting this year,” state Sen. Jason Esteves, D-Atlanta, said during a recent virtual town hall. “…It’s an industry that continues to grow, and we’re going to continue to hear it until something passes.”
The push is unique as it has proponents and detractors on both sides of the aisle, and any vote likely will not fall along party lines.
“There is no clear path to the majority on this because both caucuses are very split,” state Rep. Betsy Holland, D-Atlanta, said during a recent virtual town hall.
“…It’s not as though you have most Republicans and you need a handful of Democrats or vice versa,” Holland added. “There’s a real chasm on both sides, so it’s a really difficult math game to figure out how to get this passed.”
There is some question about whether Georgians need to approve a constitutional amendment to allow sports betting in the state. According to various media reports, former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton concluded in a memo that a constitutional amendment is not required for the state to allow online sports betting.
“Based on my review of the relevant law, the original public meanings of applicable terms and the historical context of those terms, it is my opinion that sports betting can be legalized as a state-run lottery for educational purposes solely through legislative action,” Melton wrote, according to the Associated Press.
“Sports betting has broad appeal and overwhelming support among Georgia voters on both sides of the aisle,” state Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Atlanta, said in an announcement.