(The Center Square) — The Georgia Senate passed a measure Thursday to allow sports betting under the purview of the Georgia Lottery Commission should voters approve it.
Lawmakers passed Senate Bill 386 by a 35-15 margin, and the measure now heads to the state House for consideration. Before passing the measure, lawmakers amended it to require voters to decide on a constitutional amendment in November that would allow sports betting.
Should voters approve it, proceeds from sports betting — which state Sen. Clint Dixon estimated would total more than $100 million — would benefit the HOPE Scholarship and Georgia Pre-K student financial aid programs. In a statement, Dixon, R-Gwinnett, said passing SB 386 has “paved the way for responsible and regulated sports betting in Georgia.”
“As our state evolves, it’s crucial to acknowledge the existing landscape with neighboring states already engaging in this activity,” Dixon said. “With millions in potential revenue, SB 386 ensures that these funds contribute to the growth of Georgia, supporting essential programs such as the HOPE scholarship and pre-kindergarten initiatives.
“By implementing safeguards, like prohibiting credit card use for betting and providing tools for self-limitation, we prioritize responsible gambling,” Dixon added. “The bill’s bipartisan support exemplifies a united commitment to the well-being of our citizens and the prosperity of Georgia’s future. SB 386 is more than a legislative milestone; it’s an investment in education and our economy.”
According to an analysis from BetGeorgia.com, the measure would establish a 15% tax on sports betting operators’ adjusted gaming revenue. The state would issue as many as 16 licenses, including five to professional sports teams in the state and one to the Georgia Lottery.
The debate over sports betting is nothing new in Georgia. For years, lawmakers have debated various proposals to allow sports betting or casino gambling, and experts have predicted Georgia lawmakers would eventually move to allow it as neighboring and regional states have.
A separate effort failed last year.
“I was proud of the bipartisan effort in the Senate today,” Lt. Governor Burt Jones said in a statement. “We are one step closer to providing tens of millions of dollars to education funding for the next generations of Georgia. I look forward to continued discussions to get this done.”
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor