Georgia sports betting looks like one of the most likely bills to get passed in regards to United States sports betting legalization in 2021. However, that does not mean that there are not going to be issues going forward. This past week there has been both good and bad news regarding the sports betting legislation that has entered the State Congress.
Progress in the House
House Bill 86 was introduced a few weeks ago. However, last week there were calls from major representatives to raise the tax rate that was associated with this bill. This bill was heavily influenced by Tennessee’s sports betting; however, originally, the bill only called for a 14% gross revenue tax rate on mobile sportsbooks. Tennessee’s is 20%, and many in the General Assembly felt that should be the mark for Georgia as well.
The committee in charge of the bill then pushed the tax rate to 16%, but there were still cries for the 20% standard set by Tennessee. Now, entering Monday, the 20% tax rate on gross revenue is officially in the bill, and it seems to be moving forward in the House.
Worries in the Senate
While the bill has major backing in both the Senate and General Assembly, the Senate is where current worries about constitutionality are being voiced.
The previous attempt to get sports betting legalized was actually a constitutional amendment to the Georgia State Constitution. This 2020 bill really did not get anywhere, and this time around, lawmakers decided to bypass any kind of amendment by phrasing the law differently.
While representatives in both chambers have been adamant that this bill requires no changes to the State Consitution, mainly by handing over all of the regulatory and authority powers to the Georgia Lottery, this could still be a concern that stops the bill from passing the Senate.
There is also the route that anti-gaming groups could take by challenging the constitutionality of such a law. Again, the lawmakers are circumventing any kind of amendment by handing over the power to the Lottery and allowing sports betting to fall under Lottery sales in this way.
Will Sports Betting be Legalized in Georgia?
There is no definitive answer at this point in time. There are a lot of things going for this bill, including major support from loads of lawmakers and special interest groups. Every professional team in Georgia wants to see sports betting delivered, and every major operator is pushing for legalization.
However, even without constitutional worries, there could always be hiccups in the road. We have already seen a fierce battle play out last week as the tax was raised from 14% to 20%. This was one of the first major issues and revision to the bill, something that could happen multiple more times.
April 2nd is the last day that the General Assembly of Georgia gathers, so for now, that is the cutoff date for sports betting hopes in 2021. If this bill does not get passed by then in the General Assembly, then the bill might as well be dead.