While it seemed for a time that legalized sports betting would take a back seat in Georgia, the state’s financial situation has forced lawmakers to seriously reconsider sports betting in order to help with a growing deficit.
Tax revenues generated by sports betting in the state are now being seen as a way to possibly fill the gap where the budget is concerned. It’s the same story being told all across the country as states who are in need of an infusion of cash are suddenly seeing the benefits of legalized sports betting.
It appears that the Georgia sports betting issue didn’t even get its own bill this time around, as it showed up in a separate bill altogether. In fact, House Bill 903 spends even more time addressing traffic tickets than sports betting.
The measure was taken by Senator Burt Jones, R-Jackson, and it states that the management responsibilities for sports betting would go to the Georgia Lottery Corporation.
The measure also discussed online betting platforms to which they would be allowed. This would include platforms like DraftKings and FanDuel. The key is that they would need to obtain licenses from the lottery in order to operate legally. The age for sports betting would be set at 21 years and older.
As for how much the state is estimating that the revenues would bring in – right now there is a “conservative estimate” of $60 million each year. Senator Jones commented on the need for legal sports betting in Georgia:
“This right here, the online betting program, is I think an answer to adding significant revenue dollars to a system [that] moving down the road will continue to need more dollars. And you’re taking an activity that is currently going on right now.”
Clearly that is money that could go far for “The Peach State” and right now it seems to be earmarked for funding Georgia’s HOPE scholarships for preschool programs and state university students.
House Bill 903 was able to pass the Senate Special Judiciary Committee vote last Friday and its next stop will be in front of the State Senate. The committee is made up of all Democratic lawmakers and is chaired by Senator Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta.
What makes this effort all the more interesting is the fact that sports betting has never received a warm reception in the General Assembly before. It’s historically been shunned by the majority of lawmakers.
In fact, it was just this March that Jones’ Senate Bill 403 for legalized sports betting, horse racing, and casinos failed to advance. Jones’ had wanted to leave it up to the voters to decide but this wasn’t something that received enough support.
Meanwhile, those in favor of legalizing sports betting have long since asked for the voters to be the one with the final say, not the lawmakers.
While it certainly wasn’t the circumstances anyone had planned on or expected, it seems the current financial state of affairs has opened the door to sports betting once again.
It’s a dire situation that has brought more lawmakers to the table in order to find additional revenue streams to cut the deficit. And for the first time in the state’s history, the number of sports betting proponents is growing to the point where Georgia could do the unthinkable – legalize sports betting.
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