Georgia House Panel Gives the Green Light to Sports Betting Bill Seeking Gambling Market Expansion

The House panel of Georgia passed a proposed piece of legislation that seeks to make online sports betting legal in the state, in a move towards future expansion of the Georgian gambling sector without the constitutional amendment that is normally required in such cases.

Yesterday, the members of the House Tourism and Economic Development Committee voted with a vast majority to give the green light to the legislation. Still, the vote was not found surprising, considering the fact that state Representative Ron Stephens, who is the bill’s sponsor, is also currently chairing the Committee.

The piece of legislation, called House Bill 86, would authorize the state’s Lottery to run an online sports betting system. Some of the proceeds from the new form of gambling that is sought to be legalized are meant to be used as funding to HOPE college scholarships. As explained by Mr. Stephens, the measure is a chance for the state of Georgia to add a small amount of revenue (about $40 million) into the current mechanism that had so far been used to fund the HOPE scholarship programs.

Mr. Stephens has also filed another piece of legislation seeking to include a question regarding the legalization of casino gambling on an upcoming ballot. Following years of fruitless attempts to expand Georgia’s legal gambling sector through a constitutional amendment that has to be backed by at least two-thirds in each legislative chamber and by the majority of Georgia voters, Mr. Stephens saw the possibility for sports betting to be approved through a piece of legislation that only needs the support of a majority of the local lawmakers.

Sports Betting Companies Set to Pay 14% Tax under the Proposed Bill

At the time when Georgia’s law was approved almost 30 years ago, the state’s Lottery was obliged to set aside as close to 35% of its proceeds as possible to fund the abovementioned scholarship program. Usually, such games send only about a quarter of their revenue to state education projects.

For the time being, the state of Georgia has lottery reserves of over $1 billion. The reserves are to be used in case the authorities need more money for pre-kindergarten and HOPE programs. According to analysts, the proposed gambling bill would guarantee the provision of a small part of the program’s funds.

Under the provisions of House Bill 86, sports betting companies would be required to pay a 14% tax on their income. As mentioned above, the entire tax revenue from online sports betting is intended to be used to fund the HOPE scholarship.

The proposed bill also seeks to impose a legal age of 21 in order to make sure players will be old enough to place wagers on the new form of gambling. They will also be able to place bets on sporting events that involve professional clubs only. Betting on college sports games would not be permitted.

Gambling advocates have been trying to persuade local Legislature to allow the gambling industry’s expansion with casinos or horse racing for years. The 2019 ruling of the US Supreme Court that lifted the federal ban on sports betting services paved the way for states to legalize sports betting and add it to their gambling markets.

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